Watch CBS News

Literacy Not A Right For Detroit School Kids According To State

DETROIT (CBS Detroit) - Detroit school children have no fundamental right to literacy, according to Gov. Rick Snyder's attorneys, in the midst of a suit claiming the poor reading skills of Detroit students at five schools, deplorable building conditions, and lack of basic classroom necessities are the fault of the state.

A California public interest law firm is representing seven Detroit public school students who believe the education they are getting is substandard and essentially want the courts to rule that literacy is a fundamental constitutional right reports WWJ legal analyst Charlie Langton.

The suit looks to establish that literacy is a U.S. constitutional right.

"Decades of State disinvestment in and deliberate indifference to Detroit schools have denied Plaintiff schoolchildren access to the most basic building block of education: literacy," the suit claims at its start.

The lawsuit says the schools are in "slum-like conditions" and "functionally incapable of delivering access to literacy." The case, filed in federal court, directly accuses Gov. Rick Snyder, the state school board and others of violating the civil rights of low-income students.

The lawsuit could face some challenges says Langton, adding that while there are some difficulties with Detroit public schools, the judge could say that the solution may be better addressed by the elected school board, or through the political process.

In January, a review of Detroit school buildings uncovered mold, water damage and rodents - this after teacher sick-outs in protest of working conditions within the deteriorating school buildings.

A 2011 report showed 47 percent of Detroiters were functionally illiterate -- meaning nearly half of they were not able to fill out basic forms for getting a job or having a command over basic understanding for such things as reading a prescription bottle.

The judge will conduct a hearing in February.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.