By Dr. Gregory T. Graves, Associate Executive Secretary
Insuring things that are valuable to you is common sense. Your home, your car, things that you have worked hard to obtain and in which you have invested large sums of money, which was earned as a result of your labor, should be protected from the unexpected. For much the same reason, you have wisely chosen to protect your career by being a member of the Alabama Education Association.
It is no secret that legal services are a major member benefit and, for many members, are key reasons they join and remain in AEA. The annual surveys we conduct on our membership confirm this fact. However, with the conversion of AEA dues payment from payroll deduction to bank draft, some of your colleagues are foregoing the protection provided by AEA. So that you can help them and your association, I wanted to paint a picture of what life without AEA can be like for an educator.
Imagine you are a teacher in your classroom in the middle of a lesson. Suddenly, your principal comes on the intercom and tells you to come to the office immediately and that a teacher is on her way to relieve you. When you arrive, the principal, the superintendent, and others are in the office. You are told that a student has alleged that you cheated on a standardized test, or one of a number of other allegations, and they put a letter of resignation on the desk for you to sign.
If you are an AEA member, you know to say that you will not resign, you call your UniServ Director immediately or, if they are not immediately available, call AEA Headquarters. You know that you have backup that will be there with you. You know that lawyers are available to assist you, if necessary.
If you are not an AEA member, you would not know what to do. You might belong to a competing organization that sold you cheap liability insurance with the promise that they were more “professional” than AEA – which simply means they do not stand up for their members. You call the 800 number on your card, only to be connected to a receptionist hundreds of miles away, who has no clue about your rights under Alabama law. You are told that you might be able to get a lawyer, but you will have to pay up front and will only be reimbursed if you win. You know that you can not afford a retainer for an attorney so you just sign the resignation, pack your classroom, and leave.
An AEA member in that situation, if given a notice of termination, would be assigned a lawyer. Despite what others say, there are no if, and, or buts about getting a lawyer from AEA if you are a member and receive a termination notice. That lawyer is experienced in Alabama law and knows how to protect you and your rights. Equally important, once assigned an AEA attorney, you never have to pay a dime for their services – win, lose, or draw. In many cases, AEA will spend the equivalent of a member’s dues for their entire career representing them in one case. That is the result of having tens of thousands of educators banded together to protect one another from false accusations, retaliation, and discrimination.
The same is true in certificate revocation cases. The non-member I talked about above who resigned is, in all likelihood, going to receive a notice of certificate revocation. With no job and no money, they can not fight it. With AEA, you get a lawyer to defend your license – your ability to practice your profession – at no cost to you.
If you do not belong to AEA, you are putting a great deal at risk. It means you trust every single student, parent, colleague, and administrator at your school to not make a false allegation against you. That is a very dangerous game to play in today’s education environment. Without AEA, you put your job, your career, your paycheck, your home, your car, your career, and your family’s future at risk every time you walk into a school. With the protections of the Alabama Education Association, you can go to work every day confident that no matter what comes, you will have received informed advice from your professional association and the services necessary to protect your rights. We thank you for your continued membership and support.
As always, together we stand.