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Elizabeth Moje discusses "right to literacy" case settlement on Detroit Today

May 15, 2020

Dean Elizabeth Moje joined Stephen Henderson on Detroit Today to discuss the settlement in the “right to literacy” case brought by Detroit students who claimed the state has a constitutional obligation to provide students with a basic education. Plaintiffs said the state failed to do so for years as school buildings crumbled and student achievement suffered under state control.


The settlement calls for almost $95 million in funding for future literacy education, the creation of two task forces to oversee the quality of education for Detroit students, and the seven plaintiffs in the case will share a $280,000 dollar payout.

Moje has been heavily involved with the lawsuit from the beginning, drawing from her own research and observations while working with Detroit schools to file an amicus curiae brief. She says while this settlement does not amount to the numbers needed to completely restore the deficits in the Detroit school system, she’s pleased that there will be action taken.

Moje said, “I feel the right things are being done, particularly bringing in academic interventionists and literacy specialists. Hiring certified teachers to work as those reading interventionists will be absolutely critical. We need people with expertise. Teaching literacy is like rocket science.”

Moje described the importance of the state formally recognizing Michigan public school students’ right to a basic education, and how the core of that education revolves around literacy. Students who are not sufficiently literate by the third grade experience a snowballing effect of difficulty with keeping up with the schools’ curriculum.

Callers joined the show to ask questions about the settlement, including an inquiry about whether a settlement was the best outcome in the case. As Moje explained, the settlement has the potential to provide resources sooner to youth in need than if the case returned to the courts. Henderson added that there are no guarantees that another court would uphold the decision. 

The conversation also raised the question of how school funding is managed and allocated in the state of Michigan. “We know there are school districts and communities with economic challenges and as those districts struggle to keep up, the expense gets greater so we need to inject more funding into those settings. More funding matters,” said Moje.


Featured in this Article

Dean, George Herbert Mead Collegiate Professor of Education and Arthur F Thurnau Professor, Marsal Family School of Education; Faculty Associate, Institute for Social Research; Faculty Affiliate in Latino/a Studies, College of LSA

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