Angry New Yorker

Thursday, April 15, 2004
City Journal
New York’s Fiscal Equity Follies
by Sol Stern
Spring 2004

In May 1993, attorney Michael Rebell filed a class action lawsuit against the state of New York, charging—incontestably, you’d think—that New York City schoolchildren were not receiving the “sound basic education” that the state’s constitution guarantees. But what makes Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York such a historic case isn’t its premise, but its outcome. After more than a decade of litigation, the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest, agreed with the trial judge’s original ruling: lack of state funds was the reason for the miseducation of the city’s children—and the state had better find some way to solve the money problem, fast.

Too bad both courts waved aside a mountain of evidence that shows that money isn’t the culprit. Gotham’s schools should be Exhibit A—dismal, even though they spend more per pupil than all but two states in the union and than 90 percent of New York State’s districts. The real problem with Gotham’s public schools is the city’s dysfunctional and unaccountable school system. Simply providing that system with more money, as the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision calls for, without changing where that money goes, won’t improve things, but will only entrench the problems more deeply. Worse, the court ruling threatens to place the city’s education policy in the hands of judges and lawyers—a recipe for disaster, as precedents amply suggest.

[read the entire article here.]

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