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Federal appeals court denies review request for Detroit literacy ruling

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

A federal appeals court has dismissed a motion seeking to undo a ruling in a literacy lawsuit from Detroit.

All 16 judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit agreed to deny the request to review a ruling by a three judge panel of the appeals court in “Gary B. v. Whitmer.”

The 2016 lawsuit was filed against the state of Michigan on behalf of students from several of Detroit’s worst performing schools.

The suit blames substandard academic performance on poor conditions within their classrooms, including missing or unqualified teachers, physically dangerous facilities, and inadequate books and materials.

In April, a three judge panel ruled the U.S. Constitution includes a basic right to education.In the two to one majority decision, the court ruled the Detroit public school students have been “denied a basic minimum education.”

At the time, attorney Carter Phillips praised the decision, calling it "a bold step" in recognizing a fundamental constitutional right of access to literacy."  

Last month, the Whitmer administration settled the lawsuit. As part of the settlement, the governor agreed to propose legislation to provide the Detroit Public Schools Community District with at least $94.4 million for funding literacy-related programs and initiatives. This, however, would require legislative approval.

The federal appeals court cited the settlement in its decision to deny the motion to review the previous ruling.

Following Wednesday’s appeals court ruling, the governor’s office issued a statement saying, “Although the case is over, the work is not done.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.