BOE’s Peters supports changes to dismissal act

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Alabama state school board this week approved a 2011 legislative agenda that focuses on amending the Fair Dismissal Act for education employees, which was met by opposition from the powerful Alabama Education Association.

The board voted 6-1, with one member abstaining, to approve the agenda that would require House and Senate sponsorship in the regular legislative session that begins Tuesday.

The dismissal act is the list of procedures for state education employees and employers to follow when dealing with dismissals.

District 2 board member Betty Peters, who represents the Wiregrass, said she is very much in favor of amending the act.

“I am in favor of radical correction in the Fair Dismissal Act,” she said. “It does not work.”

Peters said that there have been many situations in which education employees were put serving time or were awaiting jail and they still received their retirement and insurance. There are many teachers who are embarrassed because they do not believe that those individuatls should be paid, she said.

“I feel like the people who voted for this change had no idea that it would end up there,” she said.

Peters said it’s too hard and expensive to fire and retire ineffective teachers.

“I think the Alabama Association of School Boards makes a good point on how hard the process is to get rid of ineffective teachers,” she said.

AASB says the average arbitrated Fair Dismissal case takes 221 days to complete, plus unknown expenses.

Many throughout the state have compared the move with the situation in Wisconsin, where public employees have flooded the Capitol as the governor has made efforts to strip some collective bargaining rights from state employees.

While Alabama has no collective bargaining rights, AEA is the closest thing to a union for state education employees.

And Peters said that so far, AEA is the only one putting up a fight.

AEA Secretary Paul Hubbert called the change in the dismissal law “comparable” to the Wisconsin situation on Thurs-day.

“I think what we’re really talking about is having a fair process and making sure people are treated fairly, and making certain that legislation does that and it is not set up in a way that can be used for political and personal reasons,” he said.

“I don’t think AEA is getting the point,” she said. “An employee may have been employed with a school system for 20 years and then molest a child, and there may not have been any circumvention about it.

“The tendency has been to lean over backwards for what the ‘teacher’s union wanted,’ ” she said. “But AEA is the only group I’ve heard from. I haven’t had a teacher contact me.”

Peters said the focus remains to keep effective teachers because the students are the primary goal.

“It is possible for a teacher to be an effective teacher, but then change,” she said. “There are all sorts of reasons for this.”