I just read an interesting article in the Michigan Capitol Confidential that informed us that the president of the Michigan Education Association (MEA) — the largest Teachers Union in the state — will receive a pension from the state of Michigan for $105,000 per year.

By the way, Steve Cook, the MEA President, has not worked in the classroom for 15 years. When he did, he was not even a teacher — he was a school paraprofessional.

What is a paraprofessional?

For the purposes of Title I, Part A, a paraprofessional is defined as an employee who provides instructional support in a program supported with Title I, Part A funds. This includes paraprofessionals who do the following:

  1. Provide one-on-one tutoring if such tutoring is scheduled at a time when a student would not otherwise receive instruction from a teacher.
  2. Assist with classroom management, such as organizing instructional and other materials.
  3. Conduct parental involvement activities.
  4. Provide instructional assistance in a computer laboratory.
  5. Provide support in a library or media center.
  6. Act as a translator, or provide instructional support services under the direct supervision of a teacher.

Michigan paraprofessionals are required to hold a high school diploma (or equivalent) regardless of their assignment.

In case you did not figure it out yet, when I was younger, what is considered a paraprofessional today was called a teacher’s aide. $105,000 a year pension for a teacher’s aide, what a great gig, where do I sign up?

As the article stated, “When the current president of the state's largest teachers union worked for the Lansing School District more than 20 year ago, his job title was 'paraprofessional.' That's a position that pays between $7.69 and $16.52 an hour, according to a recent union contract.”

So, you must ask yourself why the Lansing School District is attempting to abuse the Michigan Taxpayer and give this person a sweetheart deal.

Because it is not their money, it is the taxpayer’s money is the only conclusion that I can come up with.

As the article states, “Thanks to a special deal approved by the Lansing district in 1993 and allowed by a state law, Michigan Education Association President Steve Cook could retire and collect a government pension of up to $105,000 a year. That pension would come from the underfunded school employee retirement system, which is run by the state. That's because Cook has been allowed to use his $200,000 union salary as the basis on which his school pension will be calculated, rather than the much smaller salary he earned back when he actually worked in a classroom.”

Again ask yourself why is the Lansing School district so frivolous with your tax dollars and now they will not respond to questions about it.

It gets worse: if the teachers union president Cook’s retirement benefits were based solely on the years he spent working as a school paraprofessional, it is estimated that his annual pension would be $7,731. In other words, the deal will allow Cook to collect about $97,000 more each year than he would receive on the basis of his relatively brief classroom career.

If you hear the Lansing School District tell us all they are reimbursed by the union for all of the payroll expenses it incurred on Cook's behalf, including the district's pension contributions, that is not the entire story. The reimbursement from the union would not include additional pension fund contributions that are made by the state.

Let’s discuss this tomorrow (Tuesday) on my show the Live with Renk show, which airs Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to noon, to let me know your thoughts at (269) 441-9595.

Or please feel free to start a discussion and write your thoughts in the comment section.