Courts toss literacy ruling

DETROIT (AP) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday threw out a groundbreaking decision that said Detroit students had a constitutional right to education and literacy, just days after Michigan’s governor settled the case by agreeing to seek millions from the Legislature to improve education.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set aside an April decision by one of its panels, a rare step. But the deal reached by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer still will stand, a lawyer for students said.

Detroit students claimed poor conditions in schools had made learning impossible. In a 2-1 opinion last month, judges Eric Clay and Jane Stranch said there’s a constitutional right to “access to literacy,” even if the U.S. Supreme Court has never declared it.

The full 6th Circuit has the power to scratch a decision and hear arguments again with multiple judges if a case “involves a question of exceptional importance,” according to its rules.

“It’s not a legally binding decision anymore,” said Evan Caminker, co-counsel for students and the former dean at University of Michigan law school.

Last week, Whitmer, a Democrat, said she was settling the case. She agreed to ask the Republican-controlled Legislature to spend at least $94.4 million for literacy programs in the Detroit district and take other steps. The seven plaintiffs would also share $280,000 for their own education.