Following Governor Snyder's billion dollar cut to public education, a Michigan Court ruled that students don't have to actually learn

Quality Public School EducationPublic school education in Michigan is under attack. After gaining control of both Houses, supported by a Republican Governor who rarely challenges lawmakers, the conservative majority is systematically gutting the public school system. Now it appears the conservative Michigan Court of Appeals is throwing legal precedent out the window to bend to the will of their conservative base.

Michigan’s public school system has been reeling lately. After taking office, Governor Snyder approved a budget that cut almost a billion dollars from public education in favor of providing tax cuts for businesses. These cuts sent many districts that were already on the bubble financially into a tail spin. Snyder’s answer to this was to declare a financial emergency in the district and appoint a financial manager. This dissolved the duly elected school board in each district and left the board powerless.

The end result of the cuts to public education, and the most tragic, is the loss of a quality public education. Michigan has fallen far behind other states in terms of producing college ready high school graduates. According to the Huffington Post “ACT test scores show little to no change under the governor’s watch, as Michigan students have the 10th worst aggregate scores compared to the other states and the District of Columbia. Additionally, Michigan children have also seen either no gain or a marginal loss in the majority of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores.”

Left with little hope, the ACLU filed a “right-to-read” lawsuit in July 2012. The suit filed on behalf of eight students attending K-12 public schools in Highland Park, MI, named the State, its agencies in charge of oversight, and the Highland Park School District.

The ACLU focused on Highland Park specifically because it fell under this emergency manager system. In response to the crisis, the state “turned the entire district over to a for-profit charter management company with no track record of success with low performing schools,” according to Kary Moss, executive director of the ACL of Michigan.

However, the Michigan Court of Appeals in a galling and chilling ruling held that “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.”

Quality Public School EducationMoss sums it up perfectly, “This ruling should outrage anyone who cares about our public education system. 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 lone dissent in the opinion, Judge Shapiro, took his colleagues to task and accused the court of “abandonment of our essential judicial roles, that of enforcement of the rule of law even where the defendants are government 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.”

The continued “slash and burn method” of funding critical services that is employed by the Republican party may make for great sound-bites on election commercials, but it is destroying our country. Nobody wants to pay more taxes. However, the average Joe does not see the tax cut promised him, only wealthy donors and corporations enjoy them.

Meanwhile, our school children are getting a substandard education, our infrastructure crumbles, and city services get slashed. Government at its most basic level is charged with protecting its citizens and if it can’t even accomplish that, it has failed us completely.


  1. My son, whom I raised on my own—well, along with a right widespread “village” of family and friends—from age three, attended public schools in North Carolina and I could not imagine him being able to get a better educational start. That was, of course, before the Republicans took over the Tar Heel state and began to decimate that once-proud public school system. Friends of mine who still live in North Carolina now tell me that they are helping pay their grandchldren’s way in private schools because the public schools are deteriorating so quickly.

    Here in South Carolina, that was the plan all along. Mark Sanford and now Nikki Haley are owned by the Club for Growth and Howard Rich and the “School Choice” movement. In the Palmetto State, “School Choice” is nothing more than a cipher for re-segregating our schools. They have long-planned to use tax credits and even taxpayer funds to allow white middle- and upper middle-class income children to attend private schools on the taxpayer dime. Meanwhile, the public schools are, percentage-wise, more and more populated by children of color and children in need.

    South Carolina’s history of public education is shameful enough, but “shameful” is not strong enough a word to describe the fact that it took 21 years for the state Supreme Court to finally issue a ruling—two weeks ago!—that essentially found the state culpable in not providing equal opportunity in education to children who live in the I-95 corridor; i.e., “The Corridor of Shame.” Any of us could have told you in 1993 that the schools along the I-95 corridor were embarrassingly unequal in every way to schools in Columbia, Charleston, Greenville, Spartanburg, etc. That the state—primarily the GOP powers-that-be—argued to the contrary for all those years makes one’s eyes cross. We now, by the way, stand on tiptoe to see if the, uh, “School Choice” movement makes it in the Pee Dee.

    Any bets?

  2. WOW…wouldn’t this case move up to SCOTUS? This is so sad I can’t even imagine. However, my kids went to L.A. Unified School District and it was basically babysitting. After working all day, I had to home school them. They could not bring home text books and the teachers did not demonstrate how to do math. It was a nightmare. I’m surprised they went/are in college after that.

Leave a Comment