The easiest thing that New York's highest court could do about the state's oh-so-longstanding school-funding equity case would be to wait out the departure of the oh-so-long-avoidant governor.
The right thing for New York's highest court to do about the state's longstanding school-funding equity case would be to act decisively on the request that the plaintiff made this week: Hear final arguments within 30 days and then, by the end of this school year, compel Gov. George Pataki and the Legislature to comply with previous court rulings that they ensure adequate funding for the education of New York City school children.
We believe that the Court of Appeals can and will do the right, not the easy, thing.
Even the ever even-tempered Chief Judge Judith Kaye must be out of patience by now, seeing school year after school year begin, seeing elected officials escape accountability, seeing yet another generation of New York's school kids offered substandard educations in substandard environments. World wars have taken less time to wrap up.
The plaintiff, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, turned again to the highest court this week, asking for resolution of the case, which has implications for fair funding distribution for all the state's public schools.
The advocacy group dutifully plodded step-by-step through exercise after exercise handed it by judges and court "special masters.'' It has made the case repeatedly that the opportunity for a "sound, basic education'' trumps politicians' needs or should.
Now 13 years old, a little more than a year older than Pataki's three-term tenure, the case demands resolution at a time when New York actually has a multibillion-dollar surplus. Whining by Pataki and others, including the likes of Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, that the courts cannot force the executive and legislative branches to follow the state constitution and court orders has become beyond tiresome.
Sure, it is tempting to settle for just the school-building money for New York City that Pataki and the Legislature have come up with in the state budget that they are still kicking around.
Sure, it is tempting to let the calendar year run out so Pataki can leave office, so that new leadership, likely more amenable to resolution, can come in.
It is all tempting.
And it is all intolerable, after all this time, after all this nose-thumbing.