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How the landmark ‘Right to Read’ ruling will affect more than Detroit schools

Case was originally brought by seven former DPS students

DETROIT – Michigan’s governor has agreed to ask lawmakers to provide $94.4 million to Detroit’s public schools as part of a lawsuit settlement. The state also will provide $280,000 to be shared by the seven students named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The case was originally brought by seven former DPS students against former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

READ MORE: Michigan governor to ask lawmakers for $94.4M as part of Detroit schools literacy lawsuit settlement

Back in 2018, a federal court ruled in Snyder’s favor. But, early this month the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati reversed the ruling saying the reversal was in line with other US Supreme Court rulings.

“It’s not just the settlement and it’s not just about money. It’s really about the principle that there is a right for our young people to have basic literacy,” Angela Reyes with the group 482Forward said. The group had been pressuring Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to settle the case, including starting a petition and a drive by parade of the governor’s mansion.

“Literacy is a right,” Rev. Larry Simmons, also with 482Forward said. Simmons was also a DPS student and described deplorable conditions going back decades including mushrooms growing from walls, students forced to sit on desks to avoid rats and water leaks that had gone so long without repair they had left mineral deposits. Both Simmons and Reyes agreed the decision could impact students beyond Detroit, stretching into underserved rural communicates. Simmons likened the case to Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark decision that led to the desegregation of schools.

“We cannot expect to sustain a democracy if we don’t have citizens who can read. And if schools are not held accountable to teaching students to read, why would we even have them? So clearly, this is a landmark,”said Simmons.

Just a day before Whitmer settled the case, Republicans in the state legislature asked to have the ruling thrown out and the case retried, it is now unclear what will happen next moving forward. For her part Whitmer said she plans to create two, Detroit specific education task forces to address the problems outlined in the lawsuit.