(The Daily Signal) – The Alabama Republican Party is on the verge of prohibiting some GOP candidates from accepting campaign donations from the Alabama Education Association, the predominant teachers union in the state.
Alabama GOP Chairman John Wahl announced the proposal ahead of Saturday’s vote by the state party’s executive committee. If approved, candidates running for the Alabama Board of Education, local school boards, and county school superintendent positions would be barred from taking the union’s money.
“So many of our parents and local teachers want to see change in our education system, but how can we expect our superintendents and school board members to stand up against teaching these woke concepts if they are afraid of the money and financial power coming from liberal unions responsible for pushing this type of curriculum?” Wahl said in a statement, adding:
It’s a blatant conflict of interest, and something that needs to be addressed. Our elected school representatives must be responsible to Alabama parents, not special-interest groups.
Under his leadership, Wahl has advocated for school choice in Alabama—an idea strongly opposed by teachers unions, including the National Education Association and its state affiliate.
Despite its conservative political makeup, Alabama ranks No. 27 for school choice on The Heritage Foundation’s Education Freedom Report Card. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
A poll commissioned by the Alabama Republican Party earlier this year put support for school choice at 57% among registered voters. It surveyed 1,610 voters on a question related to the state Legislature’s consideration of school choice legislation.
Even though school choice is popular with voters, the legislation made little headway among lawmakers. In its June 9 newsletter, the Alabama Education Association claimed credit: “AEA worked tirelessly to defeat this legislation,” the organization told its members, 1819 News reported.
Heritage’s Lindsey Burke, director of the Center for Education Policy, said teachers unions have long dominated K-12 education with membership rates hovering around 70% (compared with about 10% among all American workers).
“More school choice potentially means fewer union members, something this special-interest group sees as an existential threat,” Burke said. “This is a dues revenue source the unions will not cede willingly, so they’ll continue to fight education choice even though it can be a life-changing benefit for children.”
Aside from his concerns about a conflict of interest, Wahl said, he’s also “committed to protecting our children from indoctrination in the classroom.” He cited the National Education Association as a purveyor of “transgender and woke policies.”
“Parents should decide what their children learn about divisive concepts, not education unions that have lost touch with the values of the American people,” Wahl said.
The proposed change comes despite the Alabama Education Association’s heavy involvement in state Republican politics. According to the Alabama Daily News, the union was the No. 1 donor to GOP candidates in the 2022 election cycle with $2.9 million going to legislative races. Upward of 70% of the money went to Republicans, according to the union’s own estimates. That’s a sharp contrast to other states and nationally.
“Teachers unions have steadily amped up their political involvement,” according to OpenSecrets, which tracks money in politics. “From 2004 to 2016, their donations grew from $4.3 million to more than $32 million—an all-time high. Even more than most labor unions, they have little use for Republicans, giving Democrats at least 94% of the funds they contributed to candidates and parties since as far back as 1990, where our data begins.”
The Alabama union’s executive director, Amy Marlowe, claimed the GOP party chairman was making “irresponsible” and “false accusations” about the organization.
“Our voluntary membership comprises almost 90,000 Alabamians, with 72% identifying as conservative Republican voters,” Marlowe said in response to Wahl’s proposal. “AEA prioritizes all education employees working to teach children in Alabama’s local schools. Our focus is on education with no partisan perspective or fringe ideologies.”
Wahl isn’t backing down, even as the union mounts its own offensive ahead of Saturday’s vote.
“If they are serious about supporting Alabama values, they are free to disassociate from the NEA at any time,” Wahl told Yellowhammer News.
Wahl’s proposal would not apply to Republican candidates running for the state Legislature or governor.