Former Alabama officials accusing feds of education “takeover”

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A group of former leaders within the Alabama Education Association, the state’s largest classroom teachers’ union group,  penned a letter this month accusing its national counterpart, the National Education Association, with overstepping its authority after being brought in to clean up AEA’s financial affairs earlier this year.

The AEA not-so-subtly hinted at legal action against the national group for reaching beyond its proper role as consultants and making moves moves that “encroach upon the powers of the AEA Board or Delegate Assembly.”

The NEA stepped in after the state group’s expenditures outpaced its income last year, creating a deficit of about $8.5 million according to state tax records.

The accounting problems, however, did not call for a more thoroughgoing personnel sweep of the kind NEA was proposing, read a July 2 signed by several AEA past presidents and board members.

“Don’t force us to fight an organization we love, respect and support,” the missive said. “This is an ‘internal family issue,’ but the House is severely Divided. We all know that a House Divided cannot stand. It is going to take many years to repair the damage already done.”

“If anyone thinks that an out-of-state stranger can do a better job for the AEA than its members, elected officers, constitutional administrative officers and the Board of Directors, he or she is sadly mistaken,” the letter continued. “The Trustee has no authority to hire, fire, promote or demote, restructure the AEA staff or encroach upon the powers of the AEA Board or Delegate Assembly.”

The letter was dismissed, however, but the woman who currently sits atop the state education association, AEA president Sheila Hocutt Remington, called the letter “inaccurate” in a statement that accused past members of “clinging” to the ways of yesteryear.

“AEA is successful because it has been a member-driven association for more than 150 years,” her prepared  statement said. “While some people will always be uncomfortable with change and will cling to vestiges of the past, AEA and its membership is focused on what matters most – preparing students for a new school year that will begin throughout Alabama next week.”

In an interview with the Montgomery Advertiserformer AEA Associate Executive Secretary Joe Reed, who signed the letter blasting the NEA, said there is nothing wrong with today’s AEA that cannot be fixed internally.

“There’s nothing wrong with the structure,” Reed said. “There might have been errors made in some quarters, but the NEA audit picked that up and straightened that out, and kept it going.”

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