Empty judgment

Boosting New York City’s school spending by 40 percent, as called for by the judge who decided an equity lawsuit, isn’t going to happen writes Charles Upton Sahm in City Journal.

New York State now ranks number three in the nation in education spending, with a statewide per-pupil average of $14,000 a year; only New Jersey and Washington, D.C., shell out more per student. And New York City kids aren’t shortchanged: while per-pupil education spending in the city once slightly lagged the state average, the gap has narrowed to almost nothing.

Including pensions, benefits and capital costs, the New York City education budget “works out to a jaw-dropping $18,000 per pupil.”

The city refuses to raise taxes to pay for more; the state legislature won’t raise taxes statewide to spend more in the city. The courts can’t force Gov. Pataki to propose legislation to fund the court-ordered increase, Sahm writes. Expect more litigation.

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Comments

  1. The courts have no business micromanaging how state legislatures implement vague general mandates like the “opportunity for a sound education.” This would be like the Supreme Court ordering the purchase of a new aircraft carrier because the Consitution requires the government to “provide for the common defense.”

    The Ohio Supreme Court for years tried to force the legislature to revise and enhance the state funding formula for public schools. They finally gave up. This will happen in NY.

  2. Daria B. says:

    Litigation is such a good use of taxpayer dollars. Why not just take that money and put it in the school budget instead?

  3. The poster boy for the money-is-no-object approach to funding education is the Kansas City school district.

    During the desegregation mania of the 70’s, 80’s, a federal judge essentially took over the district and ordered up almost unlimited funding. He even went to the extent of forcing the state to kick in a huge chunk of money, decided to double municipal property taxes and ordered a 1.5% income tax surcharge on people working in KC but living outside the city.

    He was subsequently reversed on some of his more outrageous decisions but when he finally recused himself from the case after 12 years he had nothing to show for the money but some fantastic facilities and no educational improvement.

    Cato Institute has a fairly readable account.

  4. ragnarok says:

    Daria,

    Because they are already overfunded. Logically, every time the schools want more money, they could threaten to sue, then say, well, rather than waste the money on litigation, just put it into the schools.

  5. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Any court ordered increase in expenditures should come exclusively from the court budget, including salaries and retirement.
    Judges who do not understand the concept of seperation of powers do not merit their position.

  6. Mr. Davis says:

    Yet another good argument for vouchers.

  7. lindenen says:

    The real issue is why we have judges who think they have the right to determine what the legislature does. And this is a perfect example of the problem: Judges literally telling legislatures what to spend.

  8. Two words: Rose Bird.

  9. Vivacesunshine says:

    Just don’t let the New York courts find out that some Kansans think they do have the power to force. The Kansas Court ordered the legistlature to add $143M in funding by July (this they said in June) and threatened to shut down the entire school system if the legislators didn’t comply. Next year, the legislature must increase funding by (I think) over $500M or same threat. How shutting down the school system altogether gives the school children a “more suitable” education than letting it run, I don’t know.

  10. Bart wrote:

    Two words: Rose Bird

    I stand corrected. As a shining example of judicial arrogance, Rose Bird would almost have to have no equals if the Consitution were to have any meaning at all.

  11. “Two words: Rose Bird.”

    If only. New York state trial judges are elected on a countywide basis in elections that are very rarely cointested, and even less often seriously. The state’s appellate bench is appointed and can only be removed by impeachment: like most if not all of the northeast, New York’s state constitution provides no mechanism for the people to directly hold them accountable.

    Whenever someone in Congress starts talking about stripping the federal courts of jurisdiction on one subject or another, I wince in pain. That would simply mean handing the issue over to the state courts which, in my admittedly biased experience having worked for the Florida Legislature, are FAR worse.

  12. “Just don’t let the New York courts find out that some Kansans think they do have the power to force. The Kansas Court ordered the legistlature to add $143M in funding by July (this they said in June) and threatened to shut down the entire school system if the legislators didn’t comply. Next year, the legislature must increase funding by (I think) over $500M or same threat. How shutting down the school system altogether gives the school children a “more suitable” education than letting it run, I don’t know.”

    That’s pretty easy. Shutting down the school system altogether is the best way I can think of to allow school children to get a more suitable education, courtesy of private schools funded by parents who aren’t paying taxes for the public school system.

    I say it’s time to call their bluff. I expect to see at least one state abolish public schools within my lifetime, and I expect educational standards there to improve as a result.

  13. Ken, that’s fucking insane. Why hasn’t the Kansas Legislature impeached the lot of them?

    A war story of sorts: ever hear of the Armstrong decision by the Florida Supreme Court? The court struck down a provision OF THE STATE CONSTITUTION, not because it violated valid federal law (the only legitimate basis for doing so), but because they claimed the ballot summary for the proposed amendment at the election that adopted that provision insufficiently explained it to the voters, never mind that 1) ballot summary requirements are statutory, and therefeore can’t trump the actual amendatory process in the constitution itself and 2) the court vetted the amendment BEFORE the people voted on it, and had no problem with it then.

    My former boss, then-Speaker of the Florida House and now Congressman Tom Feeney, was about to launch impeachment proceedings against the majority justices in Armstrong. The intervening 2000 election madness saved their skins.

  14. I think the article actually says that NY currently spends about $14,000 per pupil, which will rise to $18,000 if the ruling ever manages to collect.

    The whole thing is appalling.

    I’m becoming a John Taylor Gatto convert, God help me.