Whitmer calls for state’s removal from literacy suit

    Harms Elementary School
    Harms Elementary School in Detroit | Wikimedia Commons

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and top state education officials argued in a brief filed on Friday that they should no longer be parties to a lawsuit that alleges it has denied Detroit Public Schools (DPS) students access to literacy.

    A meeting on third-grade reading standards
    People attend a community meeting on third grade reading standards at the Dexter-Elmhurst Center, Dec. 4, 2018 | Ken Coleman

    The claim at the basis of the lawsuit — that Detroit Public Schools students’ constitutional rights have been violated by the poor conditions and lack of resources faced by the district — was not disputed in the brief, which argued instead that because greater local control has been restored to DPS since the lawsuit’s filing its basis is now invalid.

    B. Eric Restuccia, Michigan’s deputy solicitor general, wrote that “even if defendants were the proper parties when this case was filed, they are no longer the proper parties because of these changed circumstances, which has restored local control.”

    The lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge last summer on the grounds that its central claim about constitutionality was invalid, but the plaintiffs, seven DPS students, appealed it to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati shortly after.

    Whitmer’s spokesperson, Tiffany Brown, said in a statement that “every student deserves a quality public education,” and that the governor’s proposed budget will “allow us to do things like triple the number of literacy coaches in Michigan, improve buildings and facilities, and help schools raise teacher pay, reduce class sizes, and upgrade technology.”

    Rick Snyder | Michigan Municipal League, Flickr

    The case was originally filed in 2016 against former Gov. Rick Snyder and his administration, but was updated in May to include Whitmer and other new education officials. Attorneys for Snyder and administration officials did argue that there is no constitutional “right to literacy,” as the lawsuit claims.

    Last year, the Detroit Board of Education reported that DPS is facing a deficit of $500 million in cash needed to repair its damaged, ailing facilities.

    Derek Robertson
    Derek Robertson covers local government, education, health care and the social safety net, and LGBTQ issues. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington, and before that covered local politics in Chicago. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He enjoys film, the Detroit Pistons and his cat. He once competed in the National Spelling Bee, but was eliminated before any potential ESPN appearances.

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