Hubbert’s work made Alabama education better

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Paul Hubbert, the classroom teacher from Jasper who became one of the most powerful men in recent Alabama history, died Tuesday.

Hubbert, of course, served for more than four decades at the head of the Alabama Education Association. Only 30,000 members strong when he took its helm, he and associate executive secretary Joe Reed grew the organization to about 100,000 members.

Whether you love him or love to hate him, we must give him his due. He played a pivotal role in many of the educational strides this state took in the last half of the 20th century, and for that we should all be appreciative.

Hubbert, 78, was one of the longest-known survivors of liver transplant, had been fighting heart and kidney ailments. That he survived so long was no surprise to those who’d seen him fight for what he believed to be right in the statehouse.

He fought hard for education employees, and managed to secure raises for his members even in some years when there were cuts elsewhere in the budget. If a proposal was legislation he felt hurt AEA or its members – such as charter schools or moves to take money from the Education Trust Fund budget – Hubbert worked to kill it. Both admirers and critics referred to him as “Governor Hubbert.”

Even his opponents acknowledged his intelligence and straightforward demeanor.

The current legislature, which is Republican controlled, changed policies that allowed AEA dues to be payroll deducted. Beginning in 2010, and especially after Hubbert’s retirement in 2011, membership and dues declined.

Only weeks ago, Hubbert took a very public stand against the current policies of AEA, now under the leadership or Henry Mabry.

“Alabama needs a strong public education voice in making policy and budgetary decisions,” he wrote. “A weak AEA cannot represent teachers and support personnel and provide the needed programs and defend public education against all of the external threats.”

Paul Hubbert was right. The strength of the public education system is one of the things that has made America great. Public education needs its advocates, and Paul Hubbert’s voice will be missed.

Rest in peace.