Thursday, December 22, 2016

To COPE or Not to COPE?

I've been paying into COPE for a number of years now, at five bucks a paycheck. For a while, the UFT was hanging tough against the evaluation system. I was pretty happy they were finally showing a little backbone, so I invited a COPE rep to our school. He showed up over an hour late, leaving me to pretty much improvise our meeting. While he only managed to sign me and one of my delegates, he did field a few questions. One was when the hell are we gonna get a raise?

He said that Michael Mulgrew was very smart, and not to worry. He said that we would get our raise, because without it Bloomberg could not get an evaluation system. This statement hung with my members, and as you may recall, Mulgrew dumped the evaluation system into the hands of John King some time before we got a contract.  Members still come up to me asking to bring that guy back so they can throw stuff at him. I have thus far declined to do so.

But there is a vote on a Constitutional Convention coming up next year, and I think it's important we oppose that. I have searched for an organization that opposes it and found none. So the only game in town is COPE. I had been inclined to do a drive in my school at the end of January but my reservations get stronger each and every week.

Of course there are always the good folks who run NYSUT, who buy tables at Cuomo fundraisers, who give to Flanagan and his GOP buds. You know, the ones who said they opposed Common Core when they ran, but then said it was this or anarchy, the folks who said they opposed Cuomo but failed utterly to do so, the folks who said they opposed APPR but failed to do that too. In fact, the only legislative victory they can claim is the one that ensures them double pensions so they don't screw themselves the way they screwed Lee Cutler.

That was kind of a constant. And then, of course, there is their odd vision of strategic planning, which included pulling out all the stops for Hillary Clinton when she was running against Bernie Sanders. A lot of us wondered why we were endorsing someone who had the temerity to lecture us about "public charter schools," among other things. There is the massive and chronic failures to endorse a winning mayoral candidate.

I have a lot of friends around the state who swear they'll never put another dime into COPE. They're horrified by the unresponsiveness of NYSUT leadership, among other things. As a New York City high school teacher, I find it even more objectionable because I have no vote or voice in NYSUT. Why should my money go to fund them, and how can I ask my members to invest their hard-earned pay into an organization that doesn't even pretend to represent them?

The turning point, for me, was when I brought a class size resolution to the UFT and they essentially told me, my school,  tens of thousands of my colleagues, and 1.1 million students to go screw ourselves. I mean, if their objection was to the clause about the arbitrator, as they said, they could have moved to strike it. Clearly they objected to the entire thing, and nothing reinforced that to me more than their repetition of class size matters, but. Once someone says but you can safely disregard  everything and anything that precedes it.

Bottom line is I absolutely agree that we ought to stop the constitutional convention. But if anyone can screw up a campaign to stop it, it's the leadership of NYSUT and the United Federation of Teachers. Still, it's the only game in town as far as financing the anti-Constitutional Convention campaign.

So I'm on the fence, and man it can be painful sitting on a fence. What would you do if you were me?
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