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THURSDAY, AUGUST 23, 2007
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Ban on double-dipping called unfair to blacks
AEA chief sees racial bias, threatens to challenge policy in court

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — If the state school board approves a ban on two-year college employees serving in the Legislature, it will start a new fight in the courts, Legislature and U.S. Justice Department.

The State Board of Education is scheduled to vote Thursday on Chancellor Bradley Byrne’s proposed policy. The Alabama Education Association, which represents two-year college employees, is opposing the proposed policy, but Byrne predicted Wednesday that he has enough votes.

He said at least five of the nine board members will support the ban, “and we may have as many as eight.”

Byrne and AEA Executive Secretary Paul Hubbert agree on one thing about the proposed ban: It represents a change in Alabama election laws and will have to be reviewed by the U.S. Justice Department to see if it creates any problems with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which opened Southern polling places to blacks.

Hubbert said he believes the proposed regulation has problems because it disproportionately affects blacks.

Four of the 13 legislators who would be affected by the proposed policy are black.

But Hubbert said more black citizens, in general, could be affected because for many years teaching was one of the few middle-class professions open to blacks in Alabama.

Byrne argues that the proposed policy is racially neutral because both blacks and whites will be affected.

High court to decide?

AEA has also threatened to challenge the policy in court. Byrne said he anticipates that and expects the case to go all the way to the Alabama Supreme Court in plenty of time to get a ruling before the next legislative elections in 2010.

Byrne said he also expects educators to pressure the Legislature to override the policy if the school board approves it. Byrne, a former state senator, said he has been talking with legislators in anticipation of that battle, and he’s been surprised by how many legislators who normally vote with AEA have told him, “On this issue, I just can’t go with them.”

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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