October 11, 2006
When New York's intermediate court decreed earlier this year that the state must appropriate upwards of five billion dollars more to the Big Apple's schools--thereby creating the conditions for "adequate" education--the state appealed. Oral arguments wrapped up Tuesday. Of course, the Empire State is not the only place to suffer through such adequacy litigation (almost half of the states have similar suits in court right now), but New York City tends to set trends--be they in fashion, art, or litigation. Hoover Institution economist Eric Hanushek worries that, regardless of the final ruling, other states will follow the New York plaintiffs' "professional judgment model," by which hired consultants pretend to determine how much an "adequate" education costs. Their "analysis" yields the equivalent of an educators' wish list, calculating costs "in a way designed to obtain the maximum spending needed." Hanushek calls this "junk science" (see here). Pricey junk science, to be sure. Compromise may be imminent, but the larger problem is easy to spot--besides the shoddy calculations, these lawsuits focus on dollars, not achievement.
"The Cost of an ‘Adequate' Education," by Eric A. Hanushek, Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2006 (subscription required)
"School Financing Case Plays Out in Court, and in Classrooms," by David Herszenhorn, New York Times, October 10, 2006