Michigan Settles Landmark Literacy Lawsuit

Some years, few Detroit public school students tested proficient in reading
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 14, 2020 6:08 PM CDT

(Newser) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will ask the Michigan Legislature to provide at least $94.4 million to Detroit's public schools to settle a lawsuit that describes the city's schools as "slum-like" and incapable of delivering access to literacy. The settlement agreement was signed Thursday, the AP reports, and comes weeks after a federal appeals court issued a groundbreaking decision recognizing a constitutional right to education and literacy. Under the settlement, Whitmer must propose legislation to fund literacy-related programs and other initiatives for the Detroit Public Schools Community District. The state must also provide $280,000 to be shared by seven students named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, to be used for a high-quality literacy program or other ways to further their education. The state also agreed to provide about $2.7 million to the district to fund literacy projects.

Whitmer will ask Michigan's Department of Education to advise school districts statewide on their strategies to improve literacy, with special attention to reducing class, racial, and ethnic disparities. "Students in Detroit faced obstacles to their education that inhibited their ability to read—obstacles they never should have faced," Whitmer said in a statement. In 2017, only 7% of Detroit public school eighth graders performed at or above the proficient level in reading, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The percentage of Detroit students who performed at or above the NAEP proficient level in 2019 was 6%. State Board of Education member Tiffany Tilley said it was a historic settlement. "This is going to affect education in every ZIP code across America," said Tilley, a graduate of Detroit’s Henry Ford High School.

(Read more literacy stories.)

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