Two Detroit lawmakers press Michigan for literacy settlement funding

Two state lawmakers said it was time for their colleagues to approve and allocate $ 94.4 million to student literacy programs in Detroit that are part of the legal settlement of a historic public education case.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer reached an agreement last May between the state and a group of Detroit students who were suing over their literacy rights. In the deal, Whitmer agreed to ask state lawmakers to approve $ 94.4 million for children’s literacy efforts in Detroit.

Shri Thanedar, Detroit State MP introduced House Bill 4480, which would provide $ 94.4 million to fund literacy-related programs and initiatives for the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

“This is a commitment by the State of Michigan to the children of our city, and we will not let that be forgotten,” Thanedar said Monday at a press conference outside Pershing High School in Detroit. “We’re here to make sure the state delivers to our children. We’re not going to rest until this money goes to our district so we can start literacy programs.”

HB 4480 has been referred to the House Budget Committee. State Senator Adam Hollier, D-Detroit, has introduced similar laws in the Senate (SB 148).

Whitmer’s office said Monday it would support the Hollier and Thanedar bills, which still require the approval of a majority of legislators in the House and Senate.

State Senator Adam Hollier, D-Detroit, says the funding his legislation would provide is a

“Gov. Whitmer is determined to meet its literacy agreement obligations, “said Chelsea Lewis-Parisio, a Whitmer spokeswoman.

In addition to funding, the Department of Settlements requires the Michigan Department of Education to provide districts with literacy guidelines. It also called for the Detroit Literacy Equity Task Force and the Detroit Education Policy Committee to be set up to advise the governor on literacy and education in the city.

The lawsuit, filed in 2016 by seven Detroit school children in the US District Court in Detroit, was closely watched by education, legal and civil rights experts, some of whom said they would end up in the US Supreme Court.

On April 23, 2020, a panel of the US 6th Circle Appeals Court issued a 2: 1 ruling that students’ right to education includes access to skills that are deemed “essential to the basic exercise of other fundamental rights and freedoms, especially of participation, to be regarded in our political system. “

This statement from U.S. Appeals Court Judge Eric Clay states that the Constitution provides a fundamental right to literacy because without it one cannot exercise other rights that are fundamental to democracy. The verdict was overturned and the case challenged in the full appeals court, but the settlement was reached before it could be heard.

“Different courts may have different opinions, but I believe literacy is a fundamental right that, like anything in the US Constitution, must be upheld and protected,” Thanedar said. “Earning those critical dollars is a good first step.”

In the case, Detroit students said a shortage of books, classrooms without teachers, poor building conditions and extreme temperatures prevented them from accessing literacy in their public schools.

The state countered that lower enrollment resulted in a loss of money for Detroit schools and that Michigan is not responsible for what has been happening in the district over two decades of state oversight.

Hollier said the funding was “a down payment and the start of what we’re going to do about children’s literacy”.

Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of DPSCD, said the money will be used for literacy intervention programs to work with students two or more years below grade and for hiring more academic interventionists, full-time teachers, to work with students in small groups work. or literacy partners to provide support.

“This funding is owed to the district due to the settlement. This is thanks to the students and families whose public school system has been damaged by emergency management and the loss of local control and accountability, “Vitti said.

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Beth LeBlanc contributed to this.

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