- Two federal lawsuits over education in Detroit could have a substantial impact on the national education landscape if they are appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court — and while they pose different core questions, they are also similar.
- The Detroit News reports the first case was filed by the American Federation of Teachers, arguing Detroit Public Schools violates students’ constitutional rights by having such poor building conditions that educational opportunity is impacted, and the second, filed by a California special interest law firm, argues Detroit students have a constitutional right to literacy that the city's schools do not guarantee.
- Both cases force judges to consider whether education is a fundamental right, and while Michael Rebell, a professor of law and educational practice at Columbia University, believes the AFT case is especially a longshot, it has already spurred infrastructure improvements in Detroit’s worst schools.
Many states have had to reconsider their education funding formulas in light of lawsuits arguing the allocations did not provide an adequate education to students. While the U.S. constitution does not specifically mention a right to public education, most state constitutions do. This is the context through which state lawsuits have forced funding changes. At the federal level, lawyers can argue that a lack of education prevents individuals from fully exercising other constitutionally protected rights.
Connecticut is responding to perhaps the most sweeping ruling about education. This fall, Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher ordered a near complete overhaul of the state’s education system, going far beyond funding and demanding new standards for the K-12 system, a new graduation test for high school students and major changes to teacher and administrator evaluation systems.