Attorneys for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder are asking a judge to toss out a lawsuit against the state of Michigan filed by students in the Detroit school system and claim that literacy is not a legal right in the state of Michigan.
Seven children filed the lawsuit in September, saying decades of state disinvestment and deliberate indifference to Detroit's schools have denied them access to literacy.
The plaintiffs say the schools have deplorable building conditions, lack of books, classrooms without teachers, insufficient desks, buildings plagued by vermin, unsafe facilities and extreme temperatures.
The Michigan Attorney General asked a federal judge to dismiss a class action lawsuit arguing that Detroit schools are obligated to ensure that kids learn how to read and write. The state's motion to dismiss the lawsuit says: "there is no fundamental right to literacy".
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Detroit school children by Public Counsel, a California-based law firm dedicated to helping the underprivileged. They're suing the state because they claim the state has been responsible for education since 1999 - when the state took over Detroit Public Schools.
"I think everybody wants to work together to improve educational outcomes for our kids. If it's a question of the legal requirements - that's the subject matter of the lawsuit - in terms of spirits, all of us have been trying to work to improve education in Michigan for every child," Gov. Snyder said on Monday.
State lawyers dispute that argument and say that "Michigan's constitution requires only that the legislature provide for a system of free public schools", leaving the details and deliver to specific educational services to the local school districts.
In other words, the state must provide for schools, but there's no obligation to make them work.
Nevertheless, the governor says the state has done a lot to help improve public education.
"We work hard on the education of kids. We've invested a lot of money on the state level but we need to get better outcomes. That's something I've been focused on ever since I've been governor - improving education in Michigan. We've made a lot of advances and there's more work to be done," Snyder said.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.