Detroit student continues fight for right to literacy

Jamarria Hall used to take the city bus for 13 miles from his home on the west side of Detroit to Osborn High School on the east side. It was a long and tedious journey that took almost two hours. During this time, he would reflect on the state of his hometown while passing through dilapidated houses and closed buildings.

Hall describes his experience at Osborn High School, one of Detroit’s lowest-performing schools, as a “waste of time.” The school had poor conditions, unqualified teachers, and a lack of textbooks. He remembers seeing rodents in the classrooms and having to teach the class himself when teachers were absent.

At the age of 16, Hall became the lead student plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against the state of Michigan, known as Gary B. v. Snyder. The lawsuit claimed that the state had failed to provide Detroit students with a basic reading education. The lawsuit resulted in a settlement in 2020, which included $94 million in state funds for the Detroit Public Schools Community District to support literacy interventions.

After years of delays, the settlement money is finally being allocated to the school aid budget and will be used to address the low reading scores among Detroit students. Two education task forces have been created to determine how the funds should be spent.

Despite his involvement in the lawsuit, Hall remains connected to the cause of improving education in Detroit. He is now a public speaker and social entrepreneur focusing on education activism. He believes that education needs to change and that students should have a say in how the settlement money is used.

Hall emphasizes the importance of providing students with a quality education and the impact it can have on their future. He believes that culturally relevant curriculums and engaging teaching methods can make a difference in improving reading proficiency.

Hall’s message to the next generation of student activists is that they already have the power to make a change. He encourages young people to be proactive and to use their knowledge and skills to make a positive impact on society.

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