New York Post columnist and libertarian blogger Ryan Sager has an interesting take on one way to pick away at the United Federation of Teachers contract. See here. The idea, which has been bandied about somewhat in Gotham, involves using the precedent set in the city’s Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit to initiate a similar case against the union. The CFE case hinged upon the notion that students had not received a “sound, basic education” from the city’s public school system. Judge Leland DeGrasse ruled that the culprit was inadequate funding and ordered the state to find a way to pump a few billion ($5.6 billion per year, not counting capital funds) into the city’s coffers. Sager suggests a case could be made for the impact of the UFT contract on the same kids.
It’s an interesting discussion, and observers have long regarded the CFE case as a Pandora’s box that could lead in many different legal directions. But why stop with just tinkering with the labor contracts? Why not use the case to provide some relief for the victims?
Politicians and interest groups have been tripping over themselves demanding that New York State provide financial relief to the city school system. It always sounds like they think the SYSTEM is the victim — rather than the students who have been getting screwed in its schools for decades. The bottom line in the case was that hundreds of thousands of city youngsters were being denied a proper education because they were attending crappy New York City public schools. Let’s reward that system that produced the crappiness with even more money, the argument goes. So as long as we’re throwing ideas around, why not cut out the middle-man in this case? Take the $5.6 billion and give it directly to the city’s 1.1 million students and let them seek out their own “sound, basic education” as a form of reparations. That amounts to more than $5,000 for every public school kid in the city – without touching the existing $15 billion school budget.
Just imagine the possibilities. Of course, $5,000 isn’t a lot in a city that prides itself in its outrageously high tuitions for its elite private schools, but there are many Catholic, charter, and traditional public schools which would be more than willing to take drastic measures to make their schools more appealing for parents and effective for kids. Give the money to the parents and require them to sign it over to the school of their choice, in addition to the regular per-pupil allocations. Some parents might even be smart enough to hold out on signing the check until the schools shaped up.
The bonus is that if some kids do bolt for private schools, it will help reduce class size in our public schools without having to build so many new schools. Dude, pass the bong. This is getting interesting.
— Joe Williams