Paul Hubbert has spent his career trying to improve education in Alabama and has been called in political circles the state’s “real governor,” but the one time he ran for office, he was defeated by a man who didn’t attend a day of college.
This past week the Alabama Education Association (AEA) he has led for 42 years named his replacement after Dr. Hubbert announced a few months ago he would retire.
Hubbert, 76, has led AEA since 1969. This fall he started dialysis, which he must have three times per week because anti-rejection medication he has taken since a liver transplant in 1989 has damaged his kidneys. His remarkable recovery from that illness is perhaps the only thing in his career that has topped his service to education in Alabama.
Hubbert’s detractors claim he has looked out only for the teachers and not the children. But they fail to recognize that teaching is the essence of an education and without maintaining quality teachers, all the buildings, books, and athletic events mean nothing toward the true education of a child. And maintaining quality teachers means the pay must be comparable to that in our surrounding states. Hubbert has achieved that goal.
AEA spokesperson David Stout opines that there is going to be more legislation aimed at hurting teachers and AEA now that Hubbert and Joe Reed, the assistant executive director, are retiring. I hope not.
Stout has said Alabama’s teachers have improved student achievement scores in recent years, including reaching the national average in fourth-grade reading for the first time. “Instead of rewarding educators, the detractors seem to want to punish teachers,” he said.
But Alabama’s new Republican legislative majority ran over the once powerful AEA in the most recent session and is looking for additional power next year.
House Speaker Mike Hubbard of Auburn and Senate President pro tem Del Marsh of Anniston told the Associated Press (AP) last week that they plan to push changes in retirement benefits for new public employees, including teachers, and plan to legalize charter schools.
Marsh and Hubbard have told the media that Republicans haven’t decided what they will offer to alter retirement benefits when the next legislative session starts but have assured current workers it will not apply to them.
Teachers or state employees can begin receiving full retirement pensions at any age as long as they have 25 years of service. Reports indicate the Republican majority will push raising the number of years of service to 30 or require that the workers’ ages and years of service equal a yet-to-be-determined number before they could start drawing pensions.
“We are looking to end the practice of people starting work for the state immediately after college and becoming eligible for full retirement benefits at 46 or 47. It’s unsustainable,” Hubbard told the AP.
There is really not a good argument against this proposal except that it must be tempered so as not to hamper the continued hiring of excellent teachers.
This daunting task will be faced by AEA’s new executive director and assistant director.
The board of directors for the AEA appointed the new leaders last Thursday. They selected Henry Mabry, the former state finance director for Gov. Don Siegelman, to replace Hubbert and attorney Gregory Graves, a lawyer with the association, as associate executive secretary.
Dorothy Strickland, president of the AEA, has stated that the other candidates for Hubbert’s position were former AEA President Anita Gibson, former State Rep. Ken Guin of Carbon Hill, and AEA Public Relations Department Manager David Stout.
Mabry has been a consultant for the AEA on financial issues since the end of Siegelman’s tenure and has also worked for the Business Council of Alabama and Alabama Power. He obtained a doctorate degree from the University of Alabama.
Graves, a graduate of Auburn University Montgomery and Jones School of Law, has been a staff attorney with the AEA for six years.
I have always admired Dr. Hubbert, partly because we hail from the same “neck of the woods,” the northwest corner of the state.
He grew up near Hubbertville, a rural unincorporated community along the Sipsey River in north central Fayette County, partly within the town of Glen Allen. Wikipedia lists local landmarks as including Hubbertville School, Hubbertville Church of Christ and Cemetery, Thunder Valley Speedway, Hubbert’s Grocery, B & M Grocery, Jones Bridge, and Berea Church of Christ.
Godspeed, Paul Hubbert, and thank you for your service to Alabama.
Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.