Friday the New York Sun gave me the opportunity to say “I told you so” before 40,000 New Yorkers.

A recent lawsuit by the “Campaign for Fiscal Equity” demanded that New York state guarantee a “sound basic education” to all public school students. The courts agreed, and now the argument is over how much money the state will have to spend to achieve this goal. The initial estimate–an additional $6 billion–would have required one of the largest state tax increases in history. But then the CFE issued a study that put the figure at $9.6 billion, prompting a letter from me, which wasn’t published.

Last week, however, the Sun reported on a new study from Syracuse University that would put the cost even higher. I recycled and amplified my letter, and the Sun printed it with minor changes:

Syracuse University now says we need to spend $26,000 per pupil to ensure an “adequate” education [“$10B May Not Be Enough To Fix Schools,” William F. Hammond Jr., New York, March 26, 2004]. This would mean an extra $16.5 billion or so for New York City’s 1.1 million pupils.

Back on March 2, 2004, we were told it would cost us only an extra $9.6 billion, and before that, merely an extra $6 billion. But as Assemblyman Steven Sanders said, “It’s not a matter of what the state can afford…it’s a matter of finding how much money is required to achieve a level of adequacy.”

If we entitle people to something no matter the cost, we shouldn’t be surprised when costs increase without limit. As I wrote to you then, if we have the option of arbitrarily proposing ends with total disregard for means, why stop at $9.6 billion? Why not $20 billion? $200 billion?

Why not just wish adequate education into existence and save the trouble and expense of having schools? The bankrupt idea that a need creates a right always leads to failure, for it places wishes above facts. And isn’t that the very essence of dishonesty?

And then there’s Eva Moskowitz. She is a somewhat left-leaning New York city council member, so you can see how bad our schools must be if they leave her saying something like this:

Public schools, Ms. Moskowitz says, cannot expect to receive a large cash infusion if state legislators and the public do not trust the city to spend the money wisely. She says that when [Joel] Klein came aboard as schools chancellor, she told him: “You need to think of yourself as having inherited the former Soviet Union. No matter how good you are, and no matter how smart and committed, it’s not capitalism.”

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