By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) issued a written statement in response to the Capitol rally organized by the state of Alabama’s largest education union, Alabama Education Association (AEA).
Gov. Bentley said, “The AEA has criticized the budget I recommended without providing a better alternative. My budget proposals protect funding for proven education programs while also protecting critical services such as dialysis for Medicaid patients and doctor visits for children of low-income families. It makes no sense to let nearly $200 million sit in a savings account when we have that funding available to protect these critical services.”
Gov. Bentley continued, “The AEA is opposing economic development legislation that will benefit public schools by strengthening the Alabama economy. The Job Creation and Retention Act will increase the funding base for schools by providing new jobs and new investment in our communities. Putting Alabamians back to work is my top priority, and this legislation will accomplish that goal while also creating new revenue for public schools.”
Gov. Bentley said, “The AEA is also fighting public charter schools and increased flexibility for traditional schools. The Education Options Act is a comprehensive effort to give teachers the flexibility they need while also giving students and their parents new options for success. I believe all children should have access to the highest-quality education possible – no matter where they’re from.”
“I value the hard work of dedicated public school teachers across this state. I regret the misguided tactics used by the management of the AEA,” Governor Bentley concluded.
The Alabama Education Association (AEA) is the Alabama affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA) which is closely aligned with President Barack H. Obama and the Democratic Party. The union (or “professional association” as AEA likes to call itself) represents dues paying teachers, school janitors, lunchroom workers, school bus drivers, principals, administrators, teacher aides, and other Alabama school system employees.
For years, the AEA has been the powerful guardian of the Alabama education system status quo. Arguably the combination of former AEA leaders Paul Hubbert and Joe Reed were the most powerful two people in Alabama politics for decades and the AEA through their AEA endorsed Alabama state legislators basically set education policy for the state. In 2010, the people of Alabama elected Republicans to large majorities of both Houses of the Alabama Legislature. The Republican Party was promising education reforms in the state of Alabama, such as tenure reform and charter schools. Late last year both Reed and Hubbert retired.
“We are going to be like a rabid dog on their (Republicans) leg,” said Henry Mabry, the new executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association at the rally on Saturday.
Secretary Mabry and the AEA is opposing HB 159 and HB 160 that would allow the Governor to give employers tax incentives from money currently earmarked for education. The Governor says that the legislation will allow the state to grow the economy and tax collections including tax collections for education.
The AEA is also opposing The Education Options Act which would allow the limited establishment of charter schools in the areas of the state where the schools historically are the 5% worst performing schools in the entire state of Alabama. The union opposes charter schools even in failing schools because they would give parents the option of taking their children (and the state appropriation for education that follows that student) to the charter school where school employees likely won’t have the benefit of tenure. Management of the charter schools will have much more flexibility in dealing with poor performing teachers and other employees than principals have in the current state schools.