It’s bad enough that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is fighting a federal ruling that the state of Michigan supply bottled water to Flint residents still contending with drinking water that is poisoned with the powerful neurotoxin lead. It’s actually REALLY bad.
But he’s found another way to make his contempt for poor people known. In response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of seven Detroit school kids, Gov. Snyder is arguing that children in Michigan do not have a fundamental right to literacy.
No, I’m not kidding:
The State of Michigan wants a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to establish a constitutional right to literacy.
“The United States Supreme Court and Michigan courts recognize the importance of literacy,” state lawyers wrote in a response last week to a suit filed on behalf of Detroit school children. “But as important as literacy may be, the United States Supreme Court has unambiguously rejected the claim that public education is a fundamental right under the Constitution. Literacy is a component or particular outcome of education, not a right granted to individuals by the Constitution.” […]
The lawsuit filed Sept. 13 on behalf of seven Detroit schoolchildren claims the State of Michigan has failed to provide them with basic literacy, a foundation of all education and a precursor to active citizenship. It asks the federal courts to order remedies, including “evidence-based literacy reforms,” a systemic approach to instruction and intervention as well as fixes to crumbling Detroit schools.
The most jaw-dropping part of Snyder’s response is the contention that the state hasn’t actually been running the schools in Detroit, despite the fact that they have had an Emergency Financial Manager or an Emergency Manager for years. They had one from 1999 to 2005 then again from 2009 until now. Hard to understand how Gov. Snyder can contend they haven’t been running the schools given the fact that they have literally been under the control of a person appointed by the governor himself (and his predecessors) for over two decades.
Rochelle Riley at the Detroit Free Press was blunt:
Well, sorry to break it to you, but courts have had to oversee schools for decades. So the idea that you are not responsible for our children — your children — not being able to read, or learn or become better citizens is horse poopie. It flies in the face of just-passed legislation requiring that third-grade students be held back if they cannot read. Oh, but you’re not responsible for them learning to read?
The State Constitution doesn’t guarantee access to education; it guarantees education. Have you read the State Constitution?
It says right in Article VIII, Section 2 that “The legislature shall maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law. Every school district shall provide for the education of its pupils without discrimination as to religion, creed, race, color or national origin.”
It doesn’t say provide bad buildings and cold classrooms or offer access to the dream of an education. It says: provide an education.
One cannot miss that your fight against this lawsuit comes as your administration finally has publicly recognized that Michigan and its largest counties have a problem with functional adult literacy, a problem that is worse in Wayne County than elsewhere and a problem that hampers the ability of Michiganders who want to work to get jobs.
It also comes just months after a national report that Michigan is one of only seven states that increased their corrections budgets more than five times as fast as they did their budgets for Pre-K through 12th grade public education. From 1979 to 2013, Michigan increased spending on schools by 18% but increased spending on corrections by 219%.
Yes, we know what’s happening to our children — and it has to stop.
Children who cannot read cannot be educated.
Children who cannot read cannot be trained for jobs.
Children who cannot read may grow up to be people who fill the prisons your administration spends $2 billion on each year. But they won’t grow up to be the taxpayers that Mayor Mike Duggan is desperately trying to cultivate.
Riley suggests that it may be time for Gov. Snyder to “step down”. I’d contend it’s time for him to be impeached. That, of course, is not going to happen given that his Republican enablers run the entire state government.
Meanwhile, poor kids across the state are paying the heartbreaking price.
[Caricature by DonkeyHotey from photos by Anne C. Savage for Eclectablog]