FACT CHECK: New ad takes aim at AL Education Association - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

FACT CHECK: New ad takes aim at AL Education Association

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The Foundation for Education Accountability paid for the ad. The Foundation for Education Accountability paid for the ad.
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

A new political ad that hit the airwaves this week takes aim at the Alabama Education Association -- the teacher's union that touts an association of more than 90,000 members.

Paid for by the Foundation for Education Accountability, the ad hits the AEA on several fronts, including its left-leaning political positions and actions, its political contributions, as well as the group's stance on recent education reforms in Alabama.

WSFA 12 News analyzed some of the statements in the ad on their truth or embellishment.

Script from ad: "If I wanted our children to fail I need a strangle hold on public schools and I would use the power of liberal big government unions to get it and I'd fill their coffers with your tax dollars to bankroll politicians who block reform."

The ad paints with a broad brush regarding the role of unions in politics over the years. The exploits of the Alabama Education Association are no exception. The AEA has historically been aligned with Democrats even though it donates money to both Democrats and Republicans. However, the man who ran the AEA for decades, Paul Hubbert, was arguably one of the most powerful men in Alabama political history and he was a Democrat.

Accurate claims in this line quickly end when it discusses how tax dollars are spent. Simply, there is no truth that Alabama tax dollars are directed to the Alabama Education Association. Granted, the Republican lawmakers who craft the education budget each year can't control how individual school districts spend each penny provided to them by the state, but there is no evidence that any state tax revenue is directly provided to the AEA for political purposes.

Script from ad: "Then I'd make it impossible to pay our best teachers more money and equally impossible for our poorest families to escape the schools that are failing them. I'd call myself the Alabama Education Association. But I wouldn't fight for education or students, or parents, or our best teachers. I'd fight for mediocrity over merit and seniority instead of success."

The AEA has blocked or attempted to block efforts in the past that would lead to some changes in the pay structure for teachers. Recently, the AEA opposed a bill in the State House that would bar schools from using seniority and years served as the sole determinant when reductions in force are required; an effort to end the trend of "first hired first fired."

There's also plenty of truth to the fact that the AEA opposed and continues to fight the Alabama Accountability Act that allows families in failing school districts to have their children transfer to better public schools or to private schools and qualify for tax credits. The AAA is the top education reform achievement of Republicans in the Alabama legislature.

Script from ad: "If I wanted our children to fail, I'd even slip liberal politicians into our primaries, pretend they were conservatives and hope you didn't notice."

This final line is a difficult one to tab as "true" or "false." It's not even a verifiable statement. The line is based on a premise that there is an underground effort to get liberal Democrats to run as Republicans and keep it a secret until they cast votes in the legislature. The claim isn't something you can prove definitively. The AEA which leans to the left and the BCA which leans to the right both support candidates of both parties so a candidate who receives money from both can be accused of being either a Democrat in disguise or a Republican in disguise.

The Foundation for Accountability in Education was started by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, a Republican from Anniston. However, a spokesman for Marsh said Marsh is no longer a director of the foundation but remains a supporter of its mission. Marsh also helps run the Alabama 2014 PAC with Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and former Governor Bob Riley that was formed with the goal of weeding out Republicans in Name Only, RINOs, and to support committed conservative candidates.

A spokesperson for the AEA responded to the ad saying, "We don't comment on lies and these are just more lies coming from Del Marsh, the sponsor of the AAA. We knew what to expect and what the script was going to look like."

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