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Hidden Agenda. Part Two.

By Larry Lee

Earlier this week we asked if there is a hidden agenda to the state school board’s hiring of non-educator Mike Sentance of Boston to be our state school superintendent.  This concentrated on the actual education of students.

However, there is another part of this picture that few have considered and that may an even larger part of why things have unfolded as they have.

MONEY.  Up to $32 BILLION.

The state school superintendent is one of 15 voting members on the Teachers’ Retirement System board.  This is part of the Retirement Systems of Alabama and where the retirement funds for 88,000 retired educators are held.

There is an on-going effort to make drastic changes to how these pension funds are managed.  There are some who would love to topple Dr. David Bronner who has run RSA for 40 years.  Those 88,000 retired educators are not in the anti-Bronner camp.  The Alabama Policy Institute and the Johnson Center at Troy University have lead the charge for change.

Attacks such as these prompted Tom Krebs, a securities attorney in Birmingham and a former director of the Alabama Securities Commission to speak out:

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“The Alabama Legislature seemingly is bound and determined to hand over Alabama’s pension funds of $32 billion to the same Wall Street firms that brought us the financial crisis of 2008.

The Alabama legislators are screaming “Change RSA” in an attempt to gain access to bribes, kickbacks, influence peddling, campaign contributions and pork barrel politics. Their activities conjure visions of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, right out of the ancient Arabian folktale about greed and corruption. Perhaps we should now call them the Ali Baba legislature.

Bribes, kickbacks and other corruption have become entangled with state pension fund fights in other states. It has been done in Rhode Island, California, Kentucky and Illinois. Why would you think it would not happen here in Alabama? Hasn’t Mike Hubbard shown us how corrupt our legislators can be? It will surely happen here in Alabama, if it hasn’t happened already.”

These are strong words from Krebs.  But when someone has served as Senior Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives as he has, you have to pay attention.

So now we hire someone from Massachusetts to vote on Alabama pensions.  We all have our long, closely held friends we turn to for advice.  People we went to high school or college with, people we once worked with, people we’ve gone to church with in our communities forever and a day.  People who are trusted to hold a confidence.

How many of these folks does Michael Sentence have in Alabama?  Who taught for him when he was a principal?  Who was a new local school superintendent when he was and with whom he shared problems?  Who was in the classroom next to him the first year he taught school?

Not a soul.

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All he has are those he is beholden to for his new job.  The same people who have created such an outcry from the public and the education community by hiring him.  The same folks who refused to listen to advise from professional educators about the qualities a new superintendent needed.  The very people who wrote up a list of qualifications and then ignored them.

They have just shown they don’t care much for teachers and principals and superintendents by ignoring them.  Which only leads us to wonder how much they care about former teachers and principals and superintendents when issues come before the Teacher’s Retirement System?

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