In late April, we wrote about the Sixth Circuit’s decision in Gary B, et al., v. Whitmer, et al. (Case No. 18‑1855/1871, April 23, 2020), in which the court held that students have a fundamental right to a basic minimum education – meaning one that provided access to literacy.
In the following weeks, Governor Whitmer faced pressure to forego any further appeals of the case. At the same time, Republican lawmakers – as well as attorneys general from 10 states – called for an en banc review of the decision in front of the entire Sixth Circuit, to determine whether the Gary B panel had reached an erroneous decision. But, on Thursday, May 14th, the Governor’s office announced that the parties had reached a settlement, thereby concluding the case.
Settlement of Gary B is not the final word on the broader issue of a fundamental right to education, although the case sets precedent for Michigan and other states within the Sixth Circuit’s jurisdiction. There is no doubt Gary B will embolden students in other federal circuits to pursue similar cases. Yet, Gary B is a divisive decision, and it is possible other circuits will decide differently than did the Sixth Circuit. Because a “circuit split” is one of the more common reasons for the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision, we may see the Court weigh in on the topic in the years to come. For now, Gary B is established in Michigan, and school districts will need to account for this new “fundamental right” moving forward