In a major decision affecting students in Detroit, a federal appeals court overruled a lower court decision and concluded that students have a fundamental right to literacy. The dissenting judge, appointed by Trump, ruled that there is no such right. The case began in 2016, when Rick Snyder was governor.

The Detroit News reported:

The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that Detroit students have a fundamental but limited right to basic minimum education and have standing to sue the state for alleged violations of that right.

In a 2-1 ruling, the panel warned that the right to education “is narrow in scope” to include access to skills deemed “essential for the basic exercise of other fundamental rights and liberties, most importantly participation in our political system.”

“This amounts to an education sufficient to provide access to a foundational level of literacy — the degree of comprehension needed for participation in our democracy,” according to the majority opinion.

But the appeals panel ruled the students failed to make adequate arguments about equal protection and compulsory attendance at schools that are “schools in name only.”

Detroit U.S. District Court Judge Stephen J. Murphy III originally dismissed the students’ claimof a fundamental right to a basic minimum education, which the divided panel reversed. He is a President George W. Bush appointee.

“Plaintiffs contend that access to literacy, as opposed to other educational achievements, is a gateway milestone, one that unlocks the basic exercise of other fundamental rights, including the possibility of political participation,” according to the majority opinion by Judges Eric Clay, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, and Jane Stranch, an appointee of former President Barack Obama.

Judge Eric Murphy, an appointee of President Donald Trump, wrote the dissent.

“While the Supreme Court has repeatedly discussed this issue, it has never decided it, and the question of whether such a right exists remains open today,” Clay wrote in the majority opinion. “After employing the reasoning of these Supreme Court cases and applying the Court’s substantive due process framework, we recognize that the Constitution provides a fundamental right to a basic minimum education.”

“In short, without the literacy provided by a basic minimum education, it is impossible to participate in our democracy,” the opinion says.

‘Thrilling historic victory’

Mark Rosenbaum, a lawyer for the Detroit students, called the decision Thursday “a thrilling historic victory for the community of Detroit that has carried on the struggle for educational justice for decades….”

“It affirms in these troubled times why our judicial system exists,” Rosenbaum said in a statement. “Every Michigander who loves children should cheer this decision.”

Literacy and education are inherent to participation in the state’s political system and are viewed as the “great equalizer,” the two judges wrote.

“It may never be that each child born in this country has the same opportunity for success in life, without regard to the circumstances of her birth,” Clay wrote. “But even so, the Constitution cannot permit those circumstances to foreclose all opportunity and deny a child literacy without regard to her potential.”

See also, the account of the decision in the Detroit Free Press.