New laws hindering education

Published 8:40pm Tuesday, May 14, 2013

First, they cut the DROP program (but not before they got their own payout from it). Then they cut educators’ pay and eliminated thousands of teachers and support personnel. They even created a new voucher program that will divert $50 million this year alone from our public schools. Now, the Republicans in Montgomery have dealt another blow to public education by voting to remove the Alabama Education Association from the Teachers’ Retirement System Board of Directors.

Senate Bill 303, sponsored by Senators Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), Tom Whatley (R-Auburn), and Del Marsh (R-Anniston), completely removes the Alabama Education Association’s presence from the Board. This bill also changes how board members are elected and allows the governor to replace vacancies instead of the board members and participants in the retirement system. If the goal truly was to give higher education more of a presence on the Board, then all that needed to be done was to create two new positions on the board specifically for higher education. There was no need to remove board members. It was never the true intent of this bill to give higher education a larger presence on the board. The real intent was always to take another stab at AEA. That is why last year the Republican Supermajority tried to replace the Board entirely with political appointees chosen by the governor, the speaker of the House, and the president pro tem of the Senate instead of the educators.

Teachers throughout Alabama are outraged that Senate Bill 303 will remove their strongest voice from the retirement system. The Board of Directors of the Teachers’ Retirement System of Alabama makes crucial investment decisions and manages the retirement accounts for our educators. Furthermore, Senate Bill 303 was not even to be debated or voted on last week. However the House was suddenly brought into recess and the Rules Committee called to meet and created a new calendar of bills.

In 2010, the Republican Supermajority campaigned on a platform that said they were going to clean up Montgomery. Instead, all they have done is continue to pass bill after bill that has undermined our schools and educators.

None of these new laws will improve the quality of educatiom in Alabama. In fact, the Accountability Act abandons struggling schools. Our children deserve better from the leadership in Montgomery. If there is one point that has been made clear over the past three years, it’s that as long as the Republican Supermajority controls Montgomery they will continue to wage a war on public education.

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