Officials from the Alabama governor’s office and the Alabama Education Association are scrambling to figure out why their promises of more teachers and smaller classes have not come true.
With the backing of teachers’ union President Paul Hubbert, Gov. Fob James Jr. proposed a school-reform bill this year that promised 1,600 additional teachers and lower pupil-teacher ratios, all without a tax increase.
Teachers were happy. Parents were happy. And lawmakers approved the plan.
This school year, however, school districts are complaining of larger classes and, according to a recent analysis of the state’s own numbers, fewer teachers than last year.
Ira Harvey, a financial analyst at the University of Alabama in Birmingham and a former state education department official, did the accounting that has Mr. James’ and Mr. Hubbert’s staffs trying to understand what happened. He confirmed that the situation in local districts is worse, not better, since the plan took effect.
Apparently, backers of the plan looked at its effects and saw that 1,600 or more additional teachers would be paid with state funds. They did not, however, realize that they were drawing an equal amount of local funds into the state treasury to pay for the program, leaving no net gain.
For now, both groups are answering angry calls by parents and teachers and questions from lawmakers by saying it will be a few weeks before they will be able to explain exactly what happened.
A law passed last year in Indiana to regulate construction wages is building a monument to frustration among school officials across the state, who are getting mixed signals about whether to abide by the new system.
Lawmakers’ reconstitution of a board that sets prevailing wages on public building projects diluted unions’ influence and led to lower rates of pay.
But just as school districts and others were beginning to pay for work under the lower hourly rates, a Lake County judge found the law unconstitutional. Since the law took effect in July, other state judges have upheld it, creating the current quagmire.
“You’re sued if you do, and sued if you don’t,” said Dennis L. Costerison, the assistant executive director of the Indiana School Boards Association.
The state supreme court is expected to rule on the issue sometime next year.
A version of this article appeared in the November 22, 1995 edition of Education Week as State Journal