In reading the opinion I disagree. I think the judge hit the right legal points and missed almost every one. A key one he missed is that Detroit schools were under state control due to Detroit's bankruptcy etc. At that point the equal protection issue actually became, since Michigan provided funds to multiple systems in the state, an equal protection one (5th/14th Amendment). Regardless of whether education is a fundamental right, once the state sought to provide the same opportunities and funding as in other areas. And there are, and he mostly did not cite, a wealth of desegregation cases and funding cases that were precedent to rule the other way.
The Judge never mentioned the key 1974 Supreme Court case of Goss v Lope. While that case was associated with suspensions from schools, the ruling had clear language: "Students...have property and liberty interests that qualify for protection under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment...Ohio...must recognize a student's legitimate entitlement to a public education as a property interest that is protected by the Due Process Clause...At the outset, appellants contend that because there is no constitutional right to an education at public expense, the Due Process Clause does not protect against expulsions from the public school system. This position misconceives the nature of the issue and is refuted by prior decisions. The Fourteenth Amendment forbids the State to deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law...Here, on the basis of state law, appellees plainly had legitimate claims of entitlement to a public education. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 3313.48 and 3313.64 (1972 and Supp. 1973) direct local authorities to provide a free education to all residents between five and 21 years of age, and a compulsory-attendance law requires attendance for a school year of not less than 32 weeks...Although Ohio may not be constitutionally obligated to establish and maintain a public school system, it has nevertheless done so and has required its children to attend. Those young people do not "shed their constitutional rights" at the schoolhouse door. Tinker v. Des Moines School Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 506 (1969). "The Fourteenth Amendment, as now applied to the States, protects the citizen against the State itself and all of its creatures - Boards of Education not excepted." West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 637 (1943)..."Education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments," Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 493 (1954)"
The quote the judge gave from Brown v Board of Education, was a case where he misread the case. To repeat it, and he added the emphasis: "In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms. Brown v. Bd. of Educ. of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483, 493 (1954) (emphasis added)." So, while the court may have left open the issue that a state need not have schools at all, it clearly said equal terms mattered if the did and THAT was a right. In this case Michigan spends more on other schools it controls and helps fund outside Detroit than it does in Detroit.
The Judge also ignored history. After the civil war, Congress placed two major conditions on southern states’ readmission to the Union: Southern states had to adopt the 14th Amendment and rewrite their state constitutions to conform to a republican form of government. In rewriting their constitutions, Congress expected states to guarantee education. Anything short was unacceptable. Southern states got the message. By 1868, nine of 10 southern states seeking admission had guaranteed education in their constitutions. Those that were slow or reluctant were the last to be readmitted. The last three states – Virginia, Mississippi and Texas – saw Congress explicitly condition their readmission on providing education. So we have some legislative history that ties into the 14th Amendment that he ignored.
I would have expected a federal district judge to at least be familiar with precedent. I expect he will be reversed on appeal. I hope he is. It is frankly pathetic that Michigan even chose to defend the case rather than fix the problem.