The case against the state alleged that the district was shut out from valuable resources. Now the state is saying these Michigan youth deserve the same education as any others.
LANSING, MI — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the plaintiffs signed a settlement agreement on Thursday in what became known as the “Right to Literacy” case. All claims are now resolved in the suit was initially filed against Governor Rick Snyder, with Whitmer inheriting it after her election.
It’s a longtime in the making and we are here to break it down.
How It All Started
The 2016 case initially filed against Michigan’s then-governor Rick Snyder also listed the Michigan Department of Education, Superintendent of Public Instruction, the State Board of Education (SBE), individual SBE members and the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget as defendants. The settlement reached is between the plaintiffs and Gov. Whitmer. The other defendants will not be signing the agreement and the plaintiffs have agreed to release all claims against all defendants.
The settlement agreement comes with $280,000 that will be divided among the seven individual student-plaintiffs to “access a high-quality literacy program or otherwise further their education,” according to a press release from the governor’s office. That works out to approximately $40,000, per plaintiff if divided equally.
The state also agreed to pay out $2.72 million to DPSCD to fund various literacy-related programs.
The governor will also receive recommendations from two task forces; one will be state-created and the Detroit Literacy Equity Task Force will be created outside of the state. It will include students, parents, literacy experts, teachers, a paraprofessional, and other community members that reflect Detroit schools’ makeup, which is decidedly different from the rest of the state.
Many educational and advocacy groups fought alongside the plaintiffs for years. David Hecker is president of the Michigan division of the American Federation of Teachers (DFT) and says the settlement is a win for the entire state.
“This case is a landmark victory for students and families in Detroit, across Michigan and throughout the country by setting an important precedent that the right to education and literacy is fundamental,” Hecker said. “We applaud both the brave students who came forward in 2016 to fight for their rights and Gov. Whitmer for working to settle this case.”
The Detroit Federation of Teachers also lauded the governor’s decision.
“Educators are used to having to fight for their students, but having students step up and be their own advocates is inspiring and a testament to the power of the public school community in this state,” said DFT president Terrence Martin. “Gov. Whitmer did the right thing settling this case and we thank her for coming to the table and helping make this settlement possible.”
The First Move Of A Long Dance
The settlement is a first step toward ensuring children in Detroit have the right to a quality education; something that eluded most of the districts’ students for the past generation.
Educators and state leaders are praising the move for kids in a hardest-hit school district but also all across Michigan.
“This decision will benefit students in Detroit, throughout Michigan and across the country,” said Hecker. “Every child has a right to receive a quality public education and every child deserves the opportunity to set themselves up for a bright future.”
The forces that drove the case through the courts say the news this week creates more connected pathways to quality education.
“I’m overwhelmed with joy for the opportunities this settlement opens up for students in Detroit,” said Jamarria Hall, a 2017 graduate of Osborn High School and part of the class of plaintiffs in the Gary B. v. Whitmer case.
Gov. Whitmer expressed her support for the Detroit students, too.
“I have always said that every student, no matter where they come from, has a birthright to a quality public education,” the governor said. “Students in Detroit faced obstacles to their education that inhibited their ability to read – obstacles they never should have faced. In the future, I will remain committed to ensuring paths to literacy for children across Michigan.”
The Next Steps
Gov. Whitmer has also agreed to propose legislation during the remainder of her first term that would fund the Detroit district with at least $94.4 million for literacy-related programs and initiatives.
“Today’s settlement is a good start, but there’s more work to do to create paths to opportunity for our children,” the governor said. “I look forward to working with the legislature to provide funding for Detroit schools and districts across the state to help ensure educators and students have the resources they need for success.” DON’T MISS: How Coronavirus Is Revealing the Technology Divide In Michigan’s Rural, Inner City Schools