The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

April 9, 2013

AEA rally draws big crowd in Montgomery


Associated Press

— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Several hundred members of the Alabama Education Association filled the Capitol steps Tuesday to push for better working conditions and the repeal of new state tax credits for private school students.

The rally was one of the biggest by any group during this year's legislative session. The AEA lobbies on behalf of Alabama's teachers and other school employees.

Incoming AEA president Anita Gibson said the school employees took off from their jobs to try to preserve their profession. "There are those who can't wait to declare the death of AEA. Boy, have I got news for you," she said.

She said a similar rally a year ago helped defeat a bill to legalize charter schools. One goal of Tuesday's rally, she said, was to urge the Legislature to reconsider a recently passed bill that provides state tax credits for parents who choose to send their children to private schools rather than public schools rated as failing. She predicted the law will ravage some communities.

Across the street at the Statehouse, Republican advocates of the new law said it won't be repealed. AEA is also challenging the law in court.

At the rally, other speakers said education employees must remember what's happened in the last three years when they vote in next year's state elections. That includes losing their deferred retirement option, paying more of their salaries toward their retirement benefits, and seeing tenure protections revised.

"We've got to send a message you cannot continue what you want to do without punishment," AEA Associate Executive Gregory Graves said.