High Court To NYC Kids: Drop Dead!
(Credit due to the Daily News) In a stinging blow to NYC public school parents and their children, New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest, cut more than half the amount of money due them. The decision. cuts the value of the judgment in the 15 year-old case from 5.9 Billion annually to 1.9 B. While this stunning lesson in the limits of litigation was being administered from the Courts breath-takingly beautiful chambers in Albany, while politicians from Senator Bruno to Governor-Elect Spitzer were measuring the consequences, public schools in New York City will continue to be vastly underfunded.
Even worse, the Court of Appeals has declined to enforce its decision. No further judicial action is required, as I read it, because, it is beyond the court's power to enforce its judgment on the Governor and legislature. It is odd to discover that the Court has embraced the idea that our children have rights which it will not enforce.
Some people think that the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit was about fairness in school funding. It wasn't. The Court of Appeals had already ruled that unfairness in funding was lawful. (At present, poor and working people in NY State pay higher rates of taxes for worse schools so that richer people can pay lower tax rates for better ones.) This prior court decision changed the subject of the action to the failure of NYS to provide NYC children with a "sound basic education" which the Court of Appeals had decided was its duty.
The Daily Politics sees this as Pataki court-packing. And further, report that Spitzer may be backing away from his promises in this regard: "I asked Spitzer transition spokeswoman Christine Anderson whether he is sticking with $4 billion to $6 billion as the cost of providing a sound basic education to New York City, and she said: "That range was always the range caveated by the court. Now we'll just need to take another look at things."
From my point of view, twelve years of Pataki misrule have harmed both courts and our schools -- but we did elect him Governor. Will parents and children follow him around the way Queens residents followed Mayor Lindsay following his famous snow-storm?
Will everything be different on day 1 or will more generations of children be treated to lessons in unfairness and class warfare by the rich? Perhaps in their next lives the Governor, the Senate Majority Leader and the Justices of the high court will live as middle school teachers in an under-funded school. I'll take a deep breath and try to write about this injustice more calmly.