Not long ago, the Board of Education approved a resolution that required students in New York Citys public elementary schools to wear uniforms. Fine, but isnt it a bit odd to make Johnny wear a shirt and tie to school while Johnnys teachers continue to dress as if theyve just been playing Frisbee on the Great Lawn? Seeing the problem, Mayor Giuliani suggested the logical next step: a dress code for teachers. Unfortunately, the mayor seemingly forgot that the citys labor contract with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) has little to do with logic. Under it, school principals cant use personal appearance as part of a teachers evaluation.
And sure enough: a UFT newsletter shouted, "Not so fast, Mr. Mayor!" as though teachers were about to lose a hard-won human right. A dress code requires negotiation," warned union president Randi Weingarten. Asking teachers to look minimally presentable in front of their pupils, Weingarten complained, was a diversion from the real job at hand." In a typical rhetorical dig at the mayor, Weingarten asked, "How about first establishing a building code?
From Weingartens reaction, its clear that if a dress code for teachers ever did get to City Halls negotiating table, the UFTs opening statement would run like this: "Mr. Mayor, as long as our members have to teach in decaying, dirty school buildings, you cant expect them to dress for work like other city employees. But if you really believe that the way teachers present themselves in the classroom is important, that it has something to do with children learning, were prepared to deal: an extra week of vacation for a shirt and tie. Jackets will cost you more. By the way, Mr. Mayor, if we do reach an agreement on the dress code, we could jointly announce it as another historic breakthrough for education reform."