Education

Court Reinstates Alabama Ban on Teacher Payroll Deductions for Politics

By Mark Walsh — February 05, 2014 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A federal appeals court has reinstated an Alabama law that bars public-employee salary deductions for political action committees or the parts of union dues that go to political activity.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, potentially is a significant defeat for teachers’ unions. The Alabama Education Association and its PAC, known as A-VOTE, filed the lawsuit challenging the 2010 statute.

A federal district court had issued a preliminary injunction barring the law from taking effect, ruling that one phrase in the law was constitutionally overbroad and that the bar on deductions for “political activity” was unconstitutionally vague and could subject some people to criminal penalties when they couldn’t be sure what was permitted.

But in its Feb. 5 decision in Alabama Education Association v. State Superintendent of Education, the 11th Circuit court panel unanimously lifted the injunction. The appeals court had certified some questions to the Alabama Supreme Court and was evidently satisfied that the Alabama high court’s interpretation mitigated any of the statute’s potential First Amendment problems. (The Alabama Supreme Court’s October opinion is appended to the 11th Circuit’s ruling, linked above.)

The appeals court noted that in 2009, in Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Idaho measure barring political payroll deductions, saying that “nothing in the First Amendment prevents a state from determining that its political subdivisions may not provide payroll deductions for political activities.”

The 11th Circuit court said it needed the Alabama high court’s help to determine that the state law was properly conceived. On the constitutional overbreadth concern, the Alabama Supreme Court made clear in its answer that the statute does not prohibit private contributions to political action committees, or contributions that are not facilitated by the government.

This, the 11th Circuit court said, “compels the conclusions that the act only declines to promote speech, rather than abridging it, and that the act does not implicate any constitutionally protected conduct, much less a substantial amount.”

As to whether the Alabama law’s reference to “political activity” was overly vague, the state high court said the law did cover more than just “electioneering” activities. The 11th Circuit court said that did not help the teachers’ union and its PAC, because “where an enactment clearly covers some conduct in which a plaintiff engages, that plaintiff cannot complain of the vagueness of the law.”

“Some of AEA and A-VOTE’s conduct indisputably falls within the act’s definition of political activity, and therefore the challengers cannot bring a facial challenge arguing the term is vague based on other applications,” the 11th Circuit court said.

The appeals court said the statute was still subject to “as applied” challenges, as opposed to the “facial” challenge mounted by the AEA.

But for now, the Alabama statute is back in business.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Building Teacher Capacity for Social-Emotional Learning
Set goals that support adult well-being and social-emotional learning: register today!


Content provided by Panorama
Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Gunman in 2018 Parkland School Massacre Pleads Guilty
A jury will decide whether Nikolas Cruz will be executed for one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
3 min read
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education Briefly Stated: October 20, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Gunman in Parkland School Massacre to Plead Guilty
The gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school will plead guilty to their murders, his attorneys said.
4 min read
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)