Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Amendment 4's Defeat a Sign of AEA's Power

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Amendment 4's Defeat a Sign of AEA's Power

Article excerpt

MONTGOMERY | If anyone thought the pro-Democrat Alabama Education Association would become irrelevant in a Republican-dominated state, the defeat of Amendment 4 in Tuesday's election showed how wrong those predictions were.

The AEA campaigned against Amendment 4. The amendment would have removed racist Jim Crow-era language from the Alabama constitution.

That's what legal scholars said it would do, but the AEA argued passage of the amendment would harm education.

The AEA couldn't stop passage of the Amendment 4 legislation as it made its way through the 2011 legislative session and waited more than a year to turn its election machinery loose in opposition.

The amendment was the only one of the 11 amendments on the ballot that lost on Tuesday.

Its defeat was the AEA's second election victory since 2010. In the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary, the AEA led the charge to defeat Republican candidate Bradley Byrne, a former state senator and chancellor of the two-year college system.

AEA opposition to Byrne kept him out of the Republican Party runoff, which was won by then-Rep. Robert Bentley, R-Tuscaloosa, who went on to win the governorship.

Less than a year after becoming AEA executive secretary, Henry Mabry led opposition to Amendment 4, mustering about 100,000 active and retired AEA members as his army.

"We've had victories this year, had some good victories," Mabry said Friday. "We have to build upon those. We're not going to take anything for granted."

Since voters in November 2010 replaced Democrats in the House and Senate with a majority of Republicans, the AEA has faced battles in and outside the legislative arena.

In a special session sandwiched between the 2010 election and the 2011 regular session, Gov. Bob Riley and Republicans stopped AEA members from being able to directly withhold their AEA dues from state paychecks.

The AEA sued over the dues check-off law. The lawsuit is still active, and Mabry said he couldn't talk about it.

In 2011, the AEA could not stop the Legislature from increasing the amount teachers pay into their retirement, which went from 5 to 7.5 percent.

That increase cut the take-home pay of education employees, Mabry said. …

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