Francis Lewis High School teacher Arthur Goldstein sends this today. The story makes me more sad than angry. If you teach in NY City schools, you can help.
At Francis Lewis High School, we want to help our sick friend and the Department of Education has offered us a deal. They’ll let us give him our sick days under these terms — buy one, pay for two.
Our colleague is suffering from a nasty reoccurrence of cancer that requires a very aggressive treatment. His doctor has had good results with this treatment, but it entails weeks of hospitalization, and our friend will be out of commission for six months at the very least. During his first bout with this cancer, he exhausted his sick days, and ended up owing the DOE one sick day.
It’s true we have the option of donating our sick days so as to keep our friend on payroll and covered by health insurance. It’s good karma, help thy neighbor, the golden rule, or whatever you wish to call it. It’s as American as mom and apple pie. But a quirk in the city’s pay rules for teachers means our sick-day donations are seriously limited. It’s almost like the city opposes mom and apple pie.
The New York City Department of Education, to be fair, doesn’t precisely oppose it, but they don’t exactly support it either. Why, then, would I suggest they oppose mom and apple pie? For one thing, any red-blooded American mom would probably give you a full slice of pie. The DoE thinks mom is some wild-eyed extremist and is having no part of her or her nonsense.
So it’s too bad, mom, but for every two days donated, our colleague receives only one. Math teacher Angelo Vetrano (who suggested I write this) donated twenty sick days, but our colleague will receive only ten. Social studies teacher Brian Kellar, and guidance counselor Bryan Brown donated six days each, but our colleague gets six total.
Sure, it’s lucrative for the DOE to get two for one. Each time they do that, they profit. A substitute teacher costs $155 a day. But the DOE collects two days worth of real teacher pay, even more, for each day we give. So if my colleague gets the hundred (or so) days he needs, the DOE stands to save thousands. What are they going to do with that money? Will they demolish my trailer and create real classroom space for my kids? Will they use it to reduce the highest class sizes in the state?
After all, it isn’t as though they haven’t already received hundreds of millions of dollars to do precisely that. Why, then, do they need so badly to make pocket change off of our ailing friend? Why does anyone want to profit off his misery, particularly when the profit is, relatively, so small?
Here’s a chance for the chancellor to reach out and show what a good guy he is. It’s contract negotiation time, and that’s a perfect time to rectify this situation. I’m fairly certain no UFT member, from a lowly teacher like me right up to President Michael Mulgrew, would oppose direct contributions of sick days to ailing colleagues.
While they’re at it, why not lift restrictions on who can contribute? Current regulations state that members with fewer than 50 or more than 180 days cannot contribute at all. In a case like this, it’s hard to fathom why that’s productive. Particularly egregious is the latter restriction. Why penalize teachers for spending over 18 years without a sick day? Teachers who go over 20 without a sick day really lose out — in September any days over 200 simply disappear into the DOE Phantom Zone.
Linda Silverman donated six days, even though she’s not personally acquainted with our friend. As a math teacher, she understands fractions very well, so she’s not crazy about the rules. But she looks at it another way.
“Ultimately, it means nothing to me, and everything to him.”
It would be nice if Tweed adopted some fraction of the Silverman philosophy.
P.S. — If you’re a teacher and would like to help our friend, email firstname.lastname@example.org.