There comes a point for anyone writing about labor union issues where you have to begin to wonder, why do I bother? There is apparently no story, be it ever so shocking, which is going to make any difference. But you still maintain the hope that there are a few people out there who reflexively support the public teachers unions but who don’t follow the news very closely. And maybe… just maybe… they might catch a story which makes them wonder if all their time and money is going to that good of a cause. Today we find precisely such a story coming to us from Michigan.
The Michigan Education Association is going to arbitration to try to force the West Branch-Rose City school district to pay a former teacher who was convicted of molesting a student a $10,000 severance buyout.
The father of the victim is outraged, calling the union’s efforts on behalf of the sex criminal “ludicrous” and saying any school money due to the teacher should go to his son, who is “out there trying to make it in this world all messed up.”
Neal Erickson, a former math teacher at Rose City Middle School, was convicted this summer of raping a young student over three years, from 2006 to 2009, and sentenced to 15-30 years in prison.
The case sparked community outrage when several of the district’s teachers wrote letters of support for Erickson, pleading for a lenient sentence. A school board member, Mike Eagan, also drew the public’s ire when he sat with the Erickson family at the pedophile’s sentencing.
Now, I know what some of you may still be thinking here. That can’t possibly be all there is to the story. That’s not possible. And in this case, you’d be right. It’s not just a case of calling for severance payment. The technical details show that there was an offer of a $10,000 buyout from the district for any qualifying teacher who left that year as part of some mandatory cost cutting. The timing of the conviction and the fact that the payments were being made in two, $5K sums, appeared to make Erickson eligible. And when the the details of the court case were revealed, the district decided not to make the payment.
Problem solved, right? I mean, it’s not like even the teachers union would go to bat on behalf of a convicted sex criminal to get him an extra check.
MEA UniServ Director Ron Parkinson acknowledged that the union is taking the case to arbitration on behalf of Erickson, but declined to discuss the case further.
“We don’t make a practice of discussing any case. It’s based on contractual compliance, and that’s really all I can say,” Parkinson told EAGnews Friday. “We filed for arbitration today.”
The union’s silence is understandable. There is no morally justifiable reason for pursuing public tax dollars for a teacher who committed one of the most heinous crimes against the public trust.
There is apparently no limit. There is no level of shame which can not be surpassed. And yet the story goes on and on.