Michigan Court of Appeal rules state has no responsibility to provide quality public education


Zenobia Jeffries
Atlanta Daily World
Tue, 26 Jan 2016 02:47 UTC

© Zenobia Jeffries/The Michigan Citizen

Highland Park parent Michelle Johnson, a plaintiff in the ACLU lawsuit against the state of Michigan, says students deserve a fair education.

In a blow to schoolchildren statewide, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on Nov. 7 the State of Michigan has no legal obligation to provide a quality public education to students in the struggling Highland Park School District.

A 2-1 decision reversed an earlier circuit court ruling that there is a “broad compelling state interest in the provision of an education to all children.” The appellate court said the state has no constitutional requirement to ensure schoolchildren actually learn fundamental skills such as reading — but rather is obligated only to establish and finance a public education system, regardless of quality. Waving off decades of historic judicial impact on educational reform, the majority opinion also contends that “judges are not equipped to decide educational policy.”

“This ruling should outrage anyone who cares about our public education system,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties of Michigan. “The court washes its hands and absolves the state of any responsibility in a district that has failed and continues to fail its children.” The decision dismisses an unprecedented “right-to-read” lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Michigan in July 2012 on behalf of eight students of nearly 1,000 children attending K-12 public schools in Highland Park, Mich. The suit, which named as defendants the State of Michigan, its agencies charged with overseeing public education and the Highland Park School District, maintained that the state failed to take effective steps to ensure that students are reading at grade level.

“Let’s remember it was the state that turned the entire district over to a for-profit charter management company with no track record of success with low performing schools,” said Moss. “It is the state that has not enforced the law that requires literacy intervention to children not reading at grade level. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure and maintain a system of education that serves all children.”

In a dissenting opinion, appellate court judge Douglas Shapiro accused the court of “abandonment of our essential judicial roles, that of enforcement of the rule of law even where the defendants are governmental entities, and of protecting the rights of all who live within Michigan’s borders, particularly those, like children, who do not have a voice in the political process.”

MEAP test results from 2012 painted a bleak picture for Highland Park students and parents. In the 2013-14 year, no fewer than 78.9 percent of current fourth graders and 73 percent of current seventh graders will require the special intervention mandated by statute. By contrast, 65 percent of then-fourth graders and 75 percent of then-seventh graders required statutory intervention entering the 2012-13 school year.

“We respect the decision of the court in this matter,” says Bill DiSessa with the Michigan Department of Education, “and commend all educators who work to get all children in Michigan reading at grade-level by the end of third grade.

“In a general sense, 3rd grade reading proficiency has been and will be one of this agency’s top priorities. Students learn to read by 3rd grade, and read to learn after that.”

Referring to State Superintendent Mike Flanagan’s July 2014 announcement he will use his authority to suspend low-performing charter school authorizers from chartering new schools, DiSessa says, “The department wants to make sure there’s accountability for all schools in the state be they public or charter.”

SOTT Comment:
Cue the charter-school carpetbaggers promising to remedy the situation. Once the profit motive enters into the picture, all other considerations are subordinated to it.
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3 Responses to Michigan Court of Appeal rules state has no responsibility to provide quality public education

  1. hannacora says:

    There is definitely a problem in the Education System in NATO countries where literacy and numeracy rates have become lower and lower in the last 10 years. It is obvious that education has been dummed down.

    What gives me a number of red flags are the many steps taken to curtail literacy services to the point that it leads me to think that the planners’ goal may be to transform some population into serfs for whom it will be illegal to read, or at least more and more restrictions on reading material.

    Any comments anyone?


  2. lecox says:

    Public education is a bizarre subject, as James Corbett pointed out in a fairly recent report on the Rockefeller influence on life in America. Compulsory public education did not appear in the U.S. until the mid-1800s. Previously, compulsory home schooling, and various private and church-sponsored schools were common and attained for the U.S., according to Mr. Corbett, an extremely high literacy rate. The politics behind public schooling is murky; I have not studied it closely. The desire of manufacturing companies to employ women in their factories must have been a factor. A desire arising from the private sector to influence schooling in America is also obvious. Their interests were in their bottom lines, not on the health and prosperity of the children of the nation.

    So our question becomes whether the system needs revival or replacement. Anyone who argues blindly for public education on the principal that some schooling is better than no schooling is missing the point and could in fact be wrong. On the other hand, local governments could implement any type of system they saw fit to implement. The problem is that if they want Federal support they must follow Federal rules.

    I am not familiar with the legal details of this case. But if third grade children can’t be taught to read, something is very wrong. My guess is that most children who learn to read well do so at home. I don’t think modern schools know how to teach reading. I’m not sure they actually know how to teach at all; it may not even be their real role. I know a 25 year old technical college graduate who can’t write a good English sentence and has a rather limited vocabulary. Some powerful group must want this, or the power of parents who want their kids very literate and able would prevail. I don’t see any alternative to returning more responsibility for child care to parents. They are the ones who care most about their children.

    • Jean says:

      Well, I had a very long, fervent reply to your comment, and it simply disappeared. As a former teacher, I have a lot to say on the subject, but the time, apparently, is not now. Maybe later today if time permits me to return to the subject 😉 Hugs, ~JEan

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