Tuesday, February 24, 1998
More do-gooders to irk Marty

BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Marty thinks ''95 percent of teachers are overpaid.'' And furthermore ''teaching is one of the cushiest jobs in the world.''

Marty is a nitwit.

As usual, my most enthusiastic and reliable critic called late at night to deliver his opinions to my voice mail. This time, he is responding to a column I wrote objecting to the Cincinnati Public School policy allowing teachers to accumulate sick days.

''For once, you are right,'' he says in his memorable growl. ''Or at least you are not wrong.'' Geez, Marty, praise like this could turn a girl's head.

The bill comes due

Cincinnati Public School teachers can ''bank'' up to 15 sick days every year. Then, when they retire, they're paid for days they haven't used. It was negotiated by the teachers' union more than 20 years ago.

''In a way,'' union President Tom Mooney says, ''it was a simple acknowledgement by the board they couldn't afford to pay us now, and they would pay us later.''

It is later. And CPS has paid out $7.6 million in the past two years for unused sick time. This year, the sick-pay bill will include almost $100,000 for Superintendent J. Michael Brandt, who will retire this summer.

''Did you notice that those getting the big payoffs aren't really in the classroom? They are in supervisory or administrative positions,'' one teacher wrote. ''When I am ill, my district has to pay someone to take over my job. When the superintendent is ill, no one is paid to sit at his desk. What he has to do can wait.''

So, how about if we overhaul this policy? How about an annual accounting, a bonus for attendance that could be applied to tuition? Or given directly to teachers to invest in an IRA?

Wouldn't that be more respectful? And more honest? And more fiscally responsible? Sick days would be reserved for sick people, and we could look for other ways to reward teachers who - and this is directed right at you, Marty - are seldom overpaid and who have one of the hardest jobs in the world.

Doing good

Just in case I hadn't already noticed this, a few days later, I watched some teachers at work. Not in the classroom. They were shopping in Crayons to Computers, a free store for teachers. Area businesses donate merchandise, and the teachers - as usual - give their time.

Several readers called to see how they could help. Call 482-7095, or drop off supplies at the warehouse at 1250 Tennessee Ave. in Bond Hill. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. until noon Saturdays.

I know Crayons to Computers will get lots of calls. It's inevitable. And it just drives Marty nuts. He calls people like this ''do-gooders.''

For instance, last week, a neatly folded $100 bill arrived after a story about the plight of Our Daily Bread, an Over-the-Rhine soup kitchen. Hamilton County officials were considering doubling the rent of the little agency that scrambles to feed almost 300 people a day.

''Use this money,'' the unsigned note read, ''to buy Chap-Stick, gloves, boots or whatever for the people who go to that shelter. Or use it to help pay the rent.''

Hamilton County commissioners decided not to raise the rent. Then when Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus won $840 on Michael Flannery's quiz show, Know It Alls, on WCPO-TV (Channel 9), he donated his winnings ''to my favorite charity.''

Enquirer readers retired most of the items on the soup kitchen's ''wish list.'' It got vacuum cleaners, clothes and enough lip balm to lubricate the entire town of Nagano, Japan. It still needs bus tokens, coffee, tea and gift certificates to Kroger, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Walgreens.

''Every time you do one of your sob stories,'' Marty told me once, ''I'll bet the do-gooders just line up.''

Well, Marty, for once you are right. Or at least you are not wrong.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in the Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.

PULFER ARCHIVE