Allegiances taint tenure bill

Published 10:09 pm Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I had a unique perspective on the controversial tenure bill being considered by the Alabama Legislature.  I knew first-hand the problems caused by the current disciplinary process for public school teachers and other personnel.  I also knew first-hand the value of tenure for our public education employees.

Generally tenure is a special status provided to public education employees after three years of working in a school system or at a particular institution.

I knew the current system because I had helped Dr. Paul Hubbert of the Alabama Education and Gov. Bob Riley put it in place.

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I had worked closely with AEA over the years on political and legal matters.  I had also worked closely with the Alabama Association of School Boards on political and legal issues for years.  The two were at real logger heads on the tenure bill.

I was not caught in the middle because I had my own perspective and position.  I had been very clear to both organizations that I thought changes were necessary in the disciplinary and transfer process.  As a result of my perspective position, neither side really trusted me or wanted me intimately involved with this issue.  Both wanted legislators that were clearly on their side.  They knew that I couldn’t be on anyone’s side because I had my own side.  Still, I felt that I was in the best position to be fair to all.

AASB had completely excluded me from the process as they were drafting their legislation.  They came up with a bill that I knew would never pass the Alabama Legislature even with the Republican Super Majority.  Moreover, I personally thought that it went way too far.

On the other hand, AEA thought that the only changes needed were to time lines to make the process faster. I knew more was needed.  The two organizations were worlds apart.  I had my own perspective and position.

In the end, the Republicans got together in the name of party unity.  They secured the 21 votes needed to cut off debate.  Then the question was whether the bill would pass because the Senate grapevine said that up to five Republicans would vote against the bill if AEA was not satisfied.  In the end, several of those voting for the cloture petition voted against passage of the bill.  But it was not five:  it was three.  The tenure bill passed by an 18 to 16 vote.

I voted against the cloture petition.  I also voted against the bill because I didn’t think it would work effectively and efficiently in resolving disciplinary and other issues.

There were so many cross currents at work.  There were so many conflicting issues at work.  There were so many emotions and allegiances in play.  It was a political/legislative thicket through which each of us had to tread our way.  I treaded mine as did others.