It's an odd but appropriate coincidence that the same day New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced his resignation, the archdiocese of New York announced plans to close 32 Catholic schools.
Spending by the City's education department increased to about $18.4 billion a year in fiscal 2010 under Mr. Klein, from about $12.7 billion in fiscal 2003. Some of that increase was the result of additional state aid resulting from a court case brought by an outfit called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, and some of it was spending in President Bush's No Child Left Behind law. But part of the result was to make it harder for Catholic schools, which in New York for the most part don't have the power to fund themselves with taxpayer dollars, to compete.
When I once asked Mr. Klein about this he replied, essentially, that his job was to be head of the public schools and to look out for them, not to look out for the Catholic schools. Fair enough. And not all of the problems of the Catholic schools can be laid at the feet of Mr. Klein, of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, or of No Child Left Behind. I'm all for improving the government run schools so long as they exist. But as Mr. Klein exits, it's worth noticing that one of the consequences of increased spending and improvement in the government schools is the closure of private sector competitors.