State Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) is sponsoring a bill requiring local school boards to allow automatic payroll deductions for professional teacher’s associations.

Under current law, local school boards may deduct employees’ salaries for savings plans, IRAs, membership dues, voluntary contributions and group insurance premiums.

Senate Bill 140 (SB140) will require local school boards to allow teachers to have their salaries deducted to pay for membership dues in professional teachers’ associations, such as teachers’ unions.   

In Alabama, the most prominent teachers’ association is the Alabama Education Association (AEA), the state affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA). The AEA has been operating in the state for over 165 years but has only existed in its current form since 1969. Paul Hubbert, head of the then-all-white Alabama Education Association, and Joe Reed, head of the all-black Alabama State Teachers Association, merged to create the modern AEA that has been a fixture in Alabama politics ever since.

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In 2013, the relationship between the Alabama Republican Party (ALGOP) and the AEA was so adversarial that the Party added a “standing rule” to its bylaws discouraging – if not prohibiting - members from accepting donations from the AEA.

However, in recent years, the relationship between ALGOP and the AEA has eased significantly.

Through its political action committee Alabama Voice of Teachers for Education (AVOTE and A-VOTE), the AEA has increased its annual contributions to Republicans from four in 2013 to 68 total contributions made in 2021 through Feb. 2, 2022.

Some GOP lawmakers have pointed to the AEA’s influence with GOP lawmakers for failing to prioritize issues like school choice.  

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