The Republican target in this state is the Alabama Education Association, which really isn’t a union so much as an education advocacy group. The AEA lobbies the state Legislature, invests in campaigns and delivers votes to candidates who support its goals. Most of the candidates the AEA supports are Democrats.
So Republicans want to clip AEA’s wings.
The anti-AEA campaign is nothing new. For years, an anti-AEA group has been flooding GOP faithful with all sorts of e-mails and Internet postings, created in hopes of convincing Alabamians that public education would be better off if someone would take AEA Executive Secretary Paul Hubbert and his self-serving teachers down a peg or two.
Once Republicans got control of the Legislature, they began to do just that. Reacting to a corrupt connection between legislators and the two-year colleges — a connection that indirectly benefited the AEA — GOP reformers sought to exclude educators from the Legislature.
After that, they went after the teacher lobby with a bill that would prohibit teachers from automatically having their dues withdrawn from their paycheck.
Meanwhile, they successfully convinced the Department of Postsecondary Education to prohibit AEA officials from enrolling new members on community college campuses.
Sensing that victory was within their grasp, Republican legislators have proposed creating a state-sponsored liability insurance program to protect teachers from lawsuits. If they did that, they believe, teachers who join the AEA to get such protection would leave the organization.
Here is where the hypocrisy comes in.
For years, Republicans have complained of how it is not right for taxpayers to pick up the tab for the free or deeply discounted health insurance that is part of teachers’ benefits. In these tight times, the GOP argues, teachers should pay more. (This page has generally agreed with that position.)
Now comes the same benefit-cutting, budget-tightening bunch of Republicans with a plan that would give those same “self-serving” teachers state-underwritten liability insurance.
If that is not enough to convince you that the GOP has little or no interest in cutting spending when it comes to playing politics, this new benefit will, by Republicans’ admission, cost Alabama taxpayers $9.8 million.
At the very time Republican Gov. Robert Bentley is expected to announce deep cuts in state budgets, his fellow Republicans are prepared to vote teachers a “benefit” that will cost the state a bundle.
How many computers, textbooks and needed supplies could be purchased with that money?
This is not about educating children or even about helping teachers. This plan is about busting the AEA.
Hold your noses, folks. This bill stinks.