Friday, February 18, 2011

What Your COPE Dollars Buy

We all know, as teachers, that we have to be careful what we say and how we speak to children. The register we use amongst ourselves may not be acceptable when someone reports us as having used it with kids. That's hard for someone like me, whose tendency is brain to mouth unedited, but I've learned. You really have to be careful who your audience is.

When you're a public figure, you have to be even more careful. Look how hubris sank Eliot Spitzer and Gary Hart. Look how it mired Bill Clinton in unproductive nonsense for years.

That's why, when I read something like this, I'm amazed how freely people disregard history. Paul Egan may go where he pleases and eat what he likes, but it behooves him to know he represents the UFT everywhere he goes.  Making scenes in restaurants and refusing to pay $1800 checks is not precisely good PR, and suits only second-tier celebs like Paris Hilton. A political director should know better than to draw such attention,  whether or not it involves portion sizes.

Such nonsense leads to boneheaded editorials like this one, stereotyping New York teachers as a bunch of self-indulgent louts. We all do stupid things sometimes. But a political leader must display restraint and diplomacy in public. Though what Egan did really reflects on him alone, we don't need this sort of publicity. He should know better. I'm a lowly teacher, and I know better.

This notwithstanding, I pay into COPE. I pay half what they ask, because while the UFT has supported great causes (like the election of Tony Avella), it's also supported the re-election of George Pataki (who vetoed improvements to the Taylor Law) and Serphin Maltese (who was responsible for breaking two Catholic school unions).

I had no idea I was buying quail dinners, satisfactory or otherwise, for Paul Egan, who earns 50% more salary than any working teacher. This is not the sort of thing that makes me want to pay what the UFT asks; rather, it makes me want to withhold support altogether.

I won't do so now, but it's high time for Mr. Egan to focus on his job and start eating more meals at home. He can learn to cook if necessary. Like most working teachers, I don't give a golly goshdarn about what sort of service people receive at $1800 dinners (even though we're granted the dubious honor of picking up the tab).

What I'd like to see from Mr. Egan is the kind of self-control demanded of working teachers every day. It's time to halt the sideshow, immediately, decisively, and forever. If he feels like a lavish meal, let him reach into his own pocket.

That's what I do.  That's what 80,000 working teachers do.

But mostly we don't, and Mr. Egan ought to bear that in mind as well.
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