By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee gathered in Birmingham passed two new rules related to education.
The first would set new rules regarding AEA money. The Republican Party Steering Committee drafted a rule saying that the Alabama Republican Party would not take any money either directly or indirectly from the Alabama Education Association (AEA) or any of its affiliates. The rule also stipulates that the Party will not take any money from the National Education Association (NEA) or any of its affiliates.
The rule was passed following a controversy that erupted in the Alabama Republican Party after the Party’s Summer meeting. Former Alabama Republican Party Chairman Winton Blount (now working as an AEA lobbyist) purchased a table at the Summer meeting with AEA money. Vocal anti-AEA critics within the Republican Party objected to the Republican Party historically Democratic Party group attempting to influence the Republican Party.
The rule does not prevent individual Republican candidates from taking money from the controversial teachers’ union; but it does formally request that Republican candidates not take AEA money. In the 2010 election, then state Representative Robert Bentley did take AEA money in his Republican Primary battle with former state Senator Bradley Byrne for the Alabama Governor’s office. The AEA spent millions of dollars on negative advertising to attack Byrne as being “too liberal” for Alabama.
The Republican Party Executive Committee also passed a resolution urging that the state legislature repeal the adoption of the common core standards in Alabama. Forty five states including Alabama have adopted the Common Core Curriculum advocated by President Barack Obama and many national groups.
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said in a written statement, “NEA believes that this work on Common Standards has the potential to provide teachers with far more manageable curriculum goals. Their broadness allows teachers to exercise professional judgment in planning instruction that promotes student success. As the standards are extended to grades K–12, NEA is optimistic that they will continue to be fewer, broader, and more challenging than most of the current state standards.”
Conservative critics of the common core point out that education is a state area of responsibility under the Constitution and the state of Alabama should not be abdicating its authority to decide school curriculum to President Obama or anybody else in the federal government.
Alabama Eagle Forum wrote of the common core standards: “We also support state and local control over education. The movement towards a common core curriculum is effectively turning over control of what is taught in our classrooms to a national entity and ultimately to the federal government. This will make it more difficult for parents or teachers who have problems or issues to address them. The State Board of Education currently has a process for writing Courses of Study, which provides for input from parents, teachers and others across the state. The Fordham Institute has ranked Alabama’s standards equal to or better than the proposed Common Core in each subject.”
Former Alabama Governor Bob Riley (R) was a prominent supporter of the Common Core standards. Governor Robert Bentley (R) has been a vocal opponent of the Common Core standards.
In November 2011 the Alabama State School Board rejected an effort by Governor Bentley to overturn the Common Core in a 6 to 3 vote. Bentley opposes the Common Core Standards because he feels that it represents an attempt by President Obama to take over education in this country. Gov. Bentley said then, “We want our standards to be extremely strong. In fact, we want them to be stronger than they are at the current time. They just don’t need to be tied to a federal core.”
Both resolutions passed by voice vote with only a handful of dissenting voices.