The state of Michigan has settled a lawsuit after a landmark "right to read" ruling from a federal court.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-Michigan) will ask her state's 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 May 13 and comes weeks after a federal appeals court issued a groundbreaking decision recognizing a constitutional right to education and literacy.
Jonathan Butcher of the Center for Education Policy at The Heritage Foundation says the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on cases like this in the past.
"And they've ruled that it's just not the federal court's job to solve these policy questions about effectiveness," he says. "So, it's interesting that this case was settled or appears to be moving toward a settlement right here, because that means that they're not going to take it up to the Supreme Court, or at least as situated right now."
According to Butcher, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could itself ask the Supreme Court to rule, but that could put this lower-court decision at risk and go back to what the Supreme Court has ruled over the years.
"So, the timing of this settlement is curious," Butcher continues. "You can kind of read here what's going on because it may be that based on the makeup of the governor's office and things like that, they may look more fondly on providing more money for schools … and be okay with a ruling that says 'Oh yes, we've got to spend more.'"
Given that the Sixth Circuit oversees more than just Michigan, Butcher suggests it is possible that another case like this could pop up in another state, go before the courts, and potentially find its way to the Supreme Court.
"Until then, these particular states are going to be bound by this ruling," he explains. "So, this is going to be something to keep an eye on for the future because if we find over and over again a ruling saying … students have this fundamental right and we're going to require more money until we reach some ill-defined level of competency that the courts feel, that could be a serious problem – and seriously expensive."