By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow county school superintendents to take second or third jobs. It also removes that $600 cap on a county superintendent’s travel expenses.
House Bill 31 is sponsored by state Rep. Danny Crawford, R-Athens.
Crawford said that, “Current law limits travel expenses to $600 for a county education superintendent. This limit was set in 1947.
State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, said, “This legislation would remove the cap entirely. Who monitors other than them submitting to their school board? Are we going to open it up to unlimited travel?”
Crawford said that, “It would be up to the school boards. You wish that there was a good school board.”
Givan said, “That is like wishing on a star. I have a problem with us passing a standard for one set of standards and having others not having a standard.”
Crawford said, “There is no cap on travel for city superintendents. This is just leveling the playing field. I want to leave it up to the local school board to make this decision. All superintendents will be treated the same.”
State Rep. Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva, said, “We need to continue to let our local school boards make the best decision for our school systems.”
State Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, said that she did not understand why the bill would remove caps for travel expenses.
“I don’t understand why that is necessary,” Moore said. “I was on the Birmingham School Board. It is the administrators and the school boards that abuse the money.”
Moore said that when she was on the Birmingham Board, they went to Cincinnati for a workshop.
“We talked to the Superintendent of Cincinnati and met with the Superintendent of Louisville; then we got to the workshop, and I asked where are the other school boards? I was told the superintendent wanted a change of scenery.”
“When you take that restriction off you are asking for trouble,” Rep. Moore said. “Our Superintendent went to Paris, he went to Johannesburg, South Africa. He went there on our money.”
Moore said that this bill would also allow county superintendents to do another job. “The superintendent’s salary already outpaces the salaries of the people. I take issue with a superintendent having a second job.”
State Rep. David Sessions, R-Grand Bay, asked, “Will the county board be able to say you can not have another job?”
Crawford said that that would be up to the local boards. Crawford suggested that the superintendents could be an adjunct professor at a community college, or he could cruise timber on a Saturday afternoon if the board allowed it.
State Rep. Jim Hill, R-Odenville, said that would open it up to the volition of the superintendent.
He proposed an amendment at the meeting that would give the Board of Education the say on whether or not the superintendent can accept outside employment. In the example of the adjunct professor, the board of education shall have the authority to say he or she can do it on a Thursday night but not a Wednesday afternoon, for example.
Crawford agreed to accept the amendment.
State Rep. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, said, “I really appreciate your amendment that gives the board the authority.”
Rep. Mary Moore said, “That is a start. They have got to cover it in his contract.”
Hill said, “In my county the superintendent is elected by the people. f the superintendent wants to do something outside of the administration of the schools, I want the board to have a say in that. The way I originally read it, a Superintendent could simply do something at 9 in the morning.”
Moore said, “The superintendents in the urban areas are out of control.”
State Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, said, “Are we going to hire part time superintendents? Education is too important for that.”
State Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, said, “This bill’s purpose was to put the county superintendent on the equal footing with a city superintendent.”
Hill replied, “We elect our superintendent. City boards hire the superintendents.”
State Representative Berry Forte, D-Eufaula, said, “There are no poor superintendents. All of them I know makes more than six digits a year. I like your amendment; but I am probably going to vote against this bill. There ain’t no such thing as a poor superintendent. My county, Bullock county, is a failing school system, and the Superintendent is making over $100,000. I wish I made over $100,000. I wouldn’t be out here arguing with you if I did.”
Givan said, “I do not agree with amending the language to say that they can not seek outside employment.”
Hill said, “If you remove that phrase, then they can go and seek outside employment.”
Givan insisted that the school board would control that in the contract.
Hill said that the board does not hire the superintendent when the superintendent is elected.
Givan replied, “What district is that?”
Hill said, “Mine. St. Clair County.”
Givan, who represents Jefferson County replied, “I don’t even know where that is. I am still perplexed to making that amendment and the bill itself.”
Hill replied, “I did not bring the bill. I brought the amendment.”
The House approved Rep. Hill’s floor amendment by a vote of 69 to 15.
Moore said, “In the urban areas we need to stop them from traveling and stop them from having outside jobs. I think we should put the same restriction on these municipal systems. You don’t even know that they got two or three other jobs.” Moore predicted that test scores at county systems would “plummet” if this bill passes. “I guarantee you the door that you want to open, you will want to close it real quick.”
State Rep. Tommy Hanes, R-Scottsboro, said, “I worked two other jobs on top of my firefighter job for 20 years, and nobody said anything.”
House Bill 31 passed 74-9 with 13 legislators voting to abstain.