Alabama Education Association

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Statewide elections are still more than a year away, but candidates are busy raising money.

The Anniston Star reported Sunday that state finance records show more than $11 million has been raised since June — when candidates first became eligible to receive contributions for their 2014 campaigns.

The newspaper says Republican candidates have picked up $6.8 million of that cash, while Democrats garnered only $861,000. Political action committees pulled in $6.3 million over the same time period.

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The Alabama Supreme Court has blocked a lawsuit challenging a new law that provides tax credits for attending private schools.

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A three-judge panel from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hold 15 hearings in Montgomery next week, the latest in the court's practice of holding hearings across the southeast.

   At least four of the hearings to be held Tuesday through Friday involve Alabama cases.

   One of the hearings set for Wednesday is regarding an issue that is part of a lawsuit challenging a state law that prohibits the Alabama Education Association and the Alabama State Employees Association from using automatic payroll deduction to collect dues from workers.

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The Alabama Legislature has passed a bill to remove the executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association from the board that oversees the state pension system for education employees.

   The House voted 61-42 Thursday and the Senate voted 17-14 to pass the bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa.

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The Alabama Education Association was once the unquestioned power in the Alabama statehouse. But that's changed since Republicans won a supermajority in the House and Senate in 2010.

Lawmakers around the country have made significant changes to teacher tenure, expanded charter schools and introduced different versions of voucher programs. But in Alabama, these kinds of changes have been part of a political upheaval not seen in most states.

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Several hundred members of the Alabama Education Association filled the Capitol steps to push for better working conditions and the repeal of new state tax credits for private school students.

The rally Tuesday was one of the biggest by any group during this year's legislative session.

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The Alabama Supreme Court has cleared the way for the governor to sign a bill to provide tax credits to some parents who send their children to private schools.

The Alabama Education Association sued over the legislation, and Montgomery County Circuit Judge Charles Price temporarily blocked the governor from signing the bill.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled Wednesday the lawsuit is premature and ordered it dismissed. AEA attorney Bobby Segall said the court indicated the suit should be filed after the governor signs the bill, and that's what AEA intends to do.

educationnews.org

A state Senate committee has voted to remove the executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association from the board that oversees the state pension system for education employees.

The Senate Education Committee voted 4-3 Wednesday to approve the bill by Republican Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa. His bill removes AEA Executive Secretary Henry Mabry and one school support employee from the Teachers Retirement System board and replaces them with two members elected by higher education employees. The bill passed with Republicans supporting it and Democrats opposing it.

Alabama Education Association

The Alabama Supreme Court has given the Alabama Education Association until Monday to respond to an effort by Republican legislators to get a private school tax credit legislation signed.

AEA got a Montgomery judge to issue a temporary restraining order barring the governor from signing the bill into law. Attorneys for Republican legislative leaders appealed to the Supreme Court and asked the court to lift the judge's order. The Supreme Court on Friday gave AEA's lawyers until Monday to respond.

Alabama State House
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A judge plans to rule Wednesday on whether the governor can sign into law a bill providing private school tax credits.

Gov. Robert Bentley had planned to sign the bill Tuesday afternoon, but Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Charles Price temporarily put that on hold while he considers a lawsuit filed by the Alabama Education Association.

Price heard arguments Tuesday afternoon on whether the Legislature violated Alabama's open meeting law and its own operating rules in passing the bill in a series of quick votes Thursday night.

Alabama State House
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The Alabama House and Senate are divided over whether a school flexibility bill should include flexibility with teacher tenure laws.

The House passed a bill Feb. 14 to allow city and county school systems to have flexibility in complying with state education laws, including tenure. The Senate rewrote the bill Thursday to exclude tenure. The House refused to go along with the Senate's changes and sent the bill to a six-member conference committee to try working out the differences.

The Alabama Legislature is considering a bill that would give local school systems more flexibility in determining their rules and regulations.

The bill is opposed by the Alabama Education Association. AEA officials are concerned it could allow some local systems to strip rights away from teachers. They see it as a possible back-door approach to creating public/private charter schools in Alabama.

The Alabama House Education Policy Committee has approved a bill to give local school systems the ability to waive certain regulations or requirements.

The committee voted Wednesday afternoon in favor of the measure by Rep. Chad Fincher, R- Semmes.

Supporters, including state schools Superintendent Tommy Bice, told lawmakers that research has shown reducing rules and regulations can increase creativity in the classroom. Bice called the bill a vote of confidence in teachers and school leaders.

Gov. Robert Bentley says he doesn't plan to propose the legalization of charter schools again in the 2013 session of the Legislature.

The Republican governor proposed charter school legislation in the 2012 session, but the state teachers' organization, the Alabama Education Association, secured enough votes to stop it.

Alabama Education Association plans to lobby to get teachers a 10 percent raise over the next two years if the money is available.

AEA Executive Secretary Henry Mabry says it would be the first pay raise for teachers in five years. Mabry says inflation is hurting teacher incomes and good salaries help attract strong teachers and other personnel.

AEA estimates the average teacher makes about $48,000 per year. School support personnel, who would be included in the raise request, make about $16,000.

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