By Godfrey J. Dillard, Esq.
Most folks are confused and dismayed by the absence of a federal constitutional right to education, despite the fact that many state constitutions grant such a right. Nowhere in the US Constitution do you find such a fundamental right, not in the original text or in any of the Amendments. How could this be? After all, the law of the land has now progressed to grant a fundamental right to marry a person of the same sex. Is not a quality education as important, if not more so? An educated and informed citizenry is the sine qua non to a fair, competent and
Yet, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in San Antonio Independent School District v.
Rodriguez, in 1971, in a 5-4 decision, held the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment did not create a constitutional right to education. Surprisingly, it was an earlier version of Justice Lewis Powell, who wrote the majority opinion, holding ‘the Equal Protection Clause does not require absolute equality or precisely equal advantages”. By 1978, Justice Powel seems to have somewhat changed his views. In Regents of California v. Bakke, he held the 14th Amendment could authorize race-conscious affirmative action admission policies, because they create an educational environment that fosters the robust exchanges of ideas so necessary to a pluralistic and modern society, such as America.
We now have a once-in-a-lifetime chance, here in Michigan, to make a difference in the lives of marginalized primary and high school students of Detroit and the State of Michigan. A Federal Appeals Court recently held that Detroit students have been “deprived of access to
literacy.” In Gary B. v. Whitmer, Judge Eric Clay, writing for the majority said, “a group of
children is relegated to a school system that does not even provide a plausible chance to attain
literacy, we hold that the Constitution provides them with a remedy.”
Governor Whitmer, alone, has the decision as to whether or not to appeal this decision.
She should not appeal this decision. It is a giant step in the right direction toward a compassionate and redemptive educational system in Michigan. The ruling will be the law in Michigan, if not in other states. She does not need the votes of the Republican Party of Michigan. She does not need the votes of the Michigan Legislature. Detroiters need politicians asking for their votes to deliver on issues that are fundamentally beneficial to them. Detroiters are the backbone of the Michigan Democratic Party.
Now is the time and now is the moment, Governor, to demonstrate what you stand for.