Ethics problem

Alabama’s system of education is so corrupt, it must be overhauled. And the first step in that overhaul is to ban the lucrative (and perverse) arrangement where legislators work for state schools.

The hiring of state legislators by the Alabama two-year college system is at the center of many stories by the Pulitzer Prize winning Birmingham News reporter Brett J. Blackledge. In many instances, these politicians were hired following their election to office.

The Birmingham News has reported that at least 43 legislators or their families or businesses work for the two-year college system. Most of these legislators did little or no work, according to the Birmingham News report.

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Hiring legislators was thought to help the colleges in the budgeting process. One legislator even bragged about this ability in an interview for a job at Gadsden State.

As if that weren’t corrupt enough, college presidents used taxpayer money to lobby for even more taxpayer money. And college presidents are paying a lobbyist to lobby against cleaning up the system.

Yes, you read that correctly. And yes, Camus was right, but in this case: Alabama is absurd.

And our lawmakers are oblivious to the problem of being unequally yoked together with the two-year college system.

One lawmaker, Rep. Neal Morrison of Cullman (a Democrat, notice how most of these politicians are also Democrats?) said it was unfair to take away his livelihood because he wants to be a legislator and a teacher. Apparently, he doesn’t understand how unfair it is for taxpayers to pay him two salaries. Can’t he live on his now luxurious legislative pay?

Rep. Morrison just doesn’t get it. It is WRONG for a legislator to vote on or have a say in the budgeting process, when he (or his family) will directly benefit from the vote. At least when legislators vote on their own pay raise, it is in the public eye. Without the Birmingham News and its excellent reporting, we would be unaware of the incestuous relationship between our politicians and our state schools.

But as one studies the corruption, it seems to get worse. The Democratic majority leader in the state house, Rep. Ken Guin, allegedly offered a college job as a payoff for running against a Republican house member.

And Rep. Guin is taking every opportunity to obstruct ethics reform.

It isn’t shocking. Guin and others like him (the Alabama Education Association) have too much at stake. They want to keep the status quo. They don’t want reform, because reform would undermine the budget process—it might prevent a teacher pay raise, and as we have found out, too many legislators benefit from teacher pay raises.

Forget an overhaul. What our school systems (two-year colleges, and K-12) need is a complete cleansing. I’m not holding my breath because any cleansing plan Gov. Riley has will no doubt be challenged in court by lawyers from…yes, you guessed it, the AEA and its cronies in the legislature.