A feud could be brewing between two of the state's most powerful political forces, the Retirement Systems of Alabama and the Alabama Education Association.
The rift began last month during a meeting of the Teachers Retirement System (TRS)/ Public Education Employees' Health Insurance Plan (PEEHIP) Board of Control.
AEA Executive Secretary Henry Mabry offered a proposal to freeze PEEHIP costs for one year starting January 1, 2013, but the board voted 7-6 to reject the measure.
Following that vote, Mabry went on the offensive in the next edition of the AEA's newsletter, the Alabama School Journal, writing that the board failed the thousands of members of the health insurance program.
"We need more transparency" Mabry said. "Not one board member knew of some of these increases.
Mabry subsequently called for the ouster of the PEEHIP elected members that voted against the measure, all of whom are members of the AEA. The others who voted against the proposal all have spots on the board by virtue of their office, including Treasurer Young Boozer, Finance Director Marquita Davis, and State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice.
David Bronner responded with an editorial of his own in his agency's publication, the RSA Advisor. In the editorial, entitled, "Never Before Witnessed," Bronner wrote "It is time for members to take this power play seriously" referring to Mabry's efforts to install other members on the board who would share his views.
Bronner continued, saying "An unbelievable amount of hard work has been done by various governors, legislators, and of course your board and RSA staff." He went on to point out that over the past 40 years the assets of the TRS have grown from less than $300 million to $19 billion.
In his own right, Mabry says the reason for his proposal to stop PEEHIP increases is because teachers and education support personnel have been hurt the most by sweeping budget cuts over the past few years, pointing out that their pay has been reduced without costs of living increases. Mabry also said he will push for 10% pay raises for all teachers during the upcoming legislative session set to begin in four weeks.
Bronner finished his editorial saying the choice to support the TRS in its current form, or to "go along with the new AEA Director's power play."
TRS members will receive ballots to vote in runoff elections for spots on the TRS board in the coming weeks. The ballots are due by February 11 of this year.
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