Imagine going into the hospital to have your tonsils removed and the operating room is filthy, the doctor is using decades-old instruments, and there are no nurses available to assist.
Most of us would turn around and run.
So, why do we send our children into schools every day with the same conditions—unsafe surroundings, lack of necessary materials and resources, and a staff without the specialties needed to address critical social-emotional issues that stand in the way of academic success?
Sadly, these students can’t turn around and run away, or at least not until they get older and drop out.
A federal suit filed with the U.S. District Court in Michigan last fall on behalf of five students from some of Detroit’s lowest-performing schools reveals the realities faced every day by students, parents, and teachers. In these schools, nearly all students read four to five years below grade level; enter buildings that are unsafe, vermin-infested, and filthy; have few textbooks, with some dating back to 1998; and lack staff members who are trained as literacy specialists, English learner instructors, and to reduce teacher turnover that negatively impacts academic achievement.
This class action lawsuit argues that the students have been denied their constitutional right to literacy as a result of the absence of oversight, inadequate funding, and little support by state officials. As an organization with a legacy of equity and a commitment to a quality education for all students that spans more than 105 years, Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) filed an amicus curiae brief, or friendly brief, that provides the court with additional information and facts, and supports the case presented in the lawsuit.
KDP’s brief asserts that while there isn’t explicit language in the Constitution about a right to literacy, citizens must have a certain level of literacy to be able to exercise their rights, such as obtaining a driver’s license, completing a job application, and joining the armed forces—most of which require the equivalent of a ninth-grade education.
“No skill is more important to the future of a child and to a democracy than literacy. Unfortunately, for many U.S. children, their fate is determined by their zip code,” said Faye Snodgress, KDP Executive Director. “Because education is the path to a better world, KDP supports educators around the globe to provide resources and services to improve academic outcomes for all students.”
By ignoring the conditions of these schools, everyone is paying a price—literally and figuratively.
Children are being denied a chance to fulfill their full potential as productive participants in the economy, constructive community members, and engaged citizens—which squanders our country’s youngest and most important resource.
This pattern perpetuates a life in poverty and translates into lost productivity, lower tax revenue, higher medical costs, increased crime and violence, and social instability.
KDP is pleased to have the International Literacy Association and the National Association for Multicultural Education join us in advocating for the right to literacy and a quality education for all students. As parents, educators, businesspersons, and community members, it is up to us to be a voice for equitable funding and resources, safe and clean schools, and qualified and supported teachers, which are essential for every child to reach his or her full potential and lead a fulfilling life. Find the official press release here.
Faye Snodgress is the Executive Director for Kappa Delta Pi.