A right to read? Students are suing Michigan schools to establish Constitutional right to basic education
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Do Americans have a right to read?

Lawyers representing children who have graduated from Michigan schools and left without the skills necessary to engage in society are arguing so, according to the Washington Post.

In the case, students from Detroit Public Schools are suing state officials in federal court, arguing that they have a right to an education. The students lost at the first level of the court, but are now bringing a new argument based on their Constitutional rights to the appeals court.

The argument is that the ability to read and write is "key to unlocking other rights" that have been held as sacred, among them voting, applying for jobs and writing letters to lawmakers.

“These children are being disenfranchised,” said the lawyer representing them. “Children are not receiving the basic skills to participate in a democracy.”

The lawsuit targets schools in Michigan, the home state of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a fierce opponent of public education who has sought to divert resources to private and charter schools.

Among the students are a boy who graduated with the highest SAT score in his class who was nonetheless rejected by his dream school, the historically black Florida A&M University, and who had to take a remedial writing class at a community college.

The argument has also been floated by Derek W. Black, a University of South Carolina law professor, who wrote a law journal article making the argument based on the laws Southern states were forced to pass to educate former slaves after the Civil War.

“This idea that we needed a literate, educated electorate dates back to before the Constitution,” said Black. “Opening doors for everyone is not enough, you have to prepare them with the government knowledge and the critical literacy that would allow them to effectively vote.”

Read the full article here.