The Alabama Education Association was the most powerful and influential political organization in Alabama for close to three decades. The late Paul Hubbert was the builder and king of this powerful organization. He became known as the king of goat hill. He reigned omnipotently over the Legislature.
All dynasties have to end. The AEA reign began to end with Hubbert’s retirement. The choice to succeed Hubbert with Henry Mabry was devastating for the organization. Mabry’s ludicrous and foolhardy stay was the worst nightmare that Hubbert could have imagined.
The AEA was Hubbert’s child. He was a steward and fierce and frugal protector of their financial resources. He did not throw his organizations money away. Henry Mabry did.
Mabry appeared to be on a mission to dismantle and ransack AEA’s treasury, and he succeeded. It made Hubbert sick and probably helped drive him to his grave. Mabry frivolously depleted the organization’s resources as well as their political action committee’s dollars.
I witnessed a prime example of Mabry’s spiteful frivolity. Hubbert had an in-house polling group, probably the best in the state. He knew through his polling which legislators could be beaten and who could not be beaten. Mabry inherited this pollster.
Veteran State Sen. Jimmy Holley had refused to do Mabry’s bidding on an issue. Mabry decided to come after Holley. AEA’s polling showed that Holley could not be beaten and that he would win 60-to-40 against whoever ran. Mabry went to Coffee County and found a candidate to run against Holley, an inept fellow who couldn’t win regardless. Mabry promised and gave the candidate $100,000. They spent it, and the polling revealed the same — Holley 60-40. The pollster told Mabry the result was going to be the same. Mabry stubbornly and stupidly spent another $100,000 on the erstwhile candidate. The final result was Holley won, 60 to 40. This scenario played out all over the state.
Mabry began the death of the AEA. A fellow with a name similar to Hubbert, Mike Hubbard, rode the Republican sweep of the Legislature into a reign as Speaker of the House. Hubbard, in true Machiavellian form, laid the final stake in the heart of the AEA. Hubbard made it his mission to lay the AEA to rest. The most destructive stake was the legislative prohibition of their automatic payroll deductions. This dealt a fatal blow to the funding stream that supported their powerful PAC.
As the AEA lay in disarray and on life support, the National Education Association stepped in to stabilize AEA.
AEA and its dedicated Alabama members have climbed out of that pit. They have elected a strong Board of Representatives from throughout the state. They have worked diligently and paid back their debt to NEA.
However, the NEA, similar to Reconstruction liberals from the North who refused to go home, now want to stay and keep control and take over the AEA’s resources. NEA is overtly involving itself in the state organization’s governing process, ignoring the will of the Alabama membership and refusing to relinquish its cash cow.
Some folks remember the days of the company store where employees had to spend their checks and stay indebted to the company and truly never find freedom again. We are witnessing that scenario play out here in Alabama with the NEA’s foot on the necks of the local AEA.
Alabama’s teachers, bus drivers, nurses and lunchroom staff work for very little pay to educate our children. They help to build our future work force.
AEA’s members are local Alabamians who are not wild-eyed liberals. AEA’s members and board members reflect Alabama values and do not mirror the liberal NEA values.
It is time for the NEA to exit Alabama and allow the AEA to work with the Alabama Legislature and business leaders to improve education in Alabama. In other words, the in-laws have overstayed their welcome. It’s time for them to go home.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.