North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

March 8, 2013

Our Views: School flexibility bill shows how fast AEA has lost its influence

North Jefferson News

AN NJN EDITORIAL — Last week’s lightning-quick action — by Alabama State Legislature standards, anyway — on the so-called school flexibility bill was something to behold. And it only serves to indicate something that is now obvious to all in Montgomery: Paul Hubbert and his allies are either absent, or totally powerless.

The Republican majority in both chambers of the Alabama Legislature rammed through a bill that was originally designed to give school districts greater leeway in setting their instructional calendars each year. Instead, once the bill emerged from committees, it had been transformed into an act which would give tax credits to offset private-school tuition costs for parents with children in failing public schools.

Let’s put the merits of the bill aside for a moment, and take note of the lack of opposition by the Alabama Education Association, once the most powerful political force in the state — second only to the Democratic Party, with which it worked hand in hand and often as an extension of each other.

The GOP pushed this bill through both chambers before the AEA could man the phone banks. The deed was done in one day, and all that current AEA head Henry Mabry could do was watch.

Mabry was able to get the Senate to agree to an amendment that would eliminate so-called “dual-track” hiring for employees who would not being trying to get tenure, and also address some other workplace issues for teachers. But still, Mabry was largely left with table scraps, at least compared to what Hubbert would have cajoled out of legislators in his heyday.

Of course, if Hubbert and Joe Reed were still in power, this bill never would have seen the light of day. But when they saw how the composition of the legislature was taking a sharp turn to the political right, they bailed. The once-powerful AEA is now just an interested observer in the Capitol Hill scene, though still an important one — just not as important.

It is a day that many in Alabama thought they would never see.

Editor's note: Since this editorial appeared in our March 6 newspaper, the bill has been renamed the Alabama Accountability Act.