AEA Will Abandon Key Legislation
By Associated Press
Montgomery AL – Two-year college Chancellor Bradley Byrne has learned to play political defense in the year since he left the Legislature.
He said the Alabama Education Association was pursuing four bills to thwart changes he and the State Board of Education have made at the schools, and all four bills have stalled.
"They tried four different ways to stop our reforms and failed on all four," Byrne said in an interview Monday.
Two bills will be in line for passage in the Senate when the Legislature returns for its final meeting day on May 19, but the Alabama Education Association has decided not to push for a vote on them.
AEA Executive Director Paul Hubbert said through a spokeswoman Monday the teachers' organization will put its emphasis instead on passing a state education budget on the final day.
The two bills would:
_override a new State Board of Education policy that prohibits two-year college employees from serving in the Legislature or statewide office after 2010.
_require the state Department of Public Safety to do criminal background checks on junior college employees rather than using a private firm, the Integrity Group, chosen by the chancellor.
At Byrne's urging, legislative opponents of the bill have maneuvered them into a position where Republican Gov. Bob Riley could veto them if they passed, and the Legislature couldn't override his veto.
Two other bills died earlier in the session because time ran out for passage. One would have required a legislative committee called the Legislative Council to review all rules that the State Board of Education enacts in the future for two-year colleges. The other would have taken the two-year colleges away from the State Board of Education, leaving it with K-12 schools, and would have created a new board to oversee junior colleges.
Byrne was a Republican state senator from Baldwin County last May when the governor recommended the school board hire him to replace Roy Johnson as chancellor.
Since then, Johnson has agreed to plead guilty in an ongoing federal and state investigation of corruption in Alabama's two-year colleges. One former legislator has pleaded guilty in that investigation, and two are awaiting trial.
Riley made it clear last week he would veto the bill allowing junior college employees to keep serving in the Legislature after 2010, and he reiterated that at a news conference Monday.
Away from the Legislature, AEA is pushing a lawsuit challenging the State Board of Education's policy about dual posts.
Riley and Byrne said Monday they expect more battles with AEA in future legislative sessions.
"In the meantime, our reform effort goes forward," Byrne said.