Alabama Republican Party bans AEA contributions in most school races

County and state school board candidates and elected superintendents would fall under the ban

By: - August 5, 2023 2:37 pm
The Alabama Education Association headquarters, showing a brass rendering of the name of the group on a concrete wall.

A sign outside the headquarters of the Alabama Education Association, as seen on January 24, 2023. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

The Alabama Republican Party Saturday voted to ban some Republican school board candidates from accepting money from the National Education Association and affiliates like the Alabama Education Association (AEA).

But the party’s governing body rejected a proposal to expand the candidates affected. 

The ban, proposed by Alabama Republican Party Chairman John Wahl, would apply to GOP candidates for county school boards, the state school board and county superintendent positions. If money was donated without solicitation, candidates would have seven days to return it.

Wahl cited what he called the NEA’s “transgender ideology” and “woke policies” in a news release ahead of the event.

“We have a problem with representation and who is the driver in our children’s education and that’s a nationwide issue,” he said.

The ban would not apply to city school board races, which are nonpartisan.

Kynesha Brown, a spokeswoman for the AEA, said leadership was not available for comment Saturday. The AEA generally supports candidates for state office and does not typically get involved in school board races. 

Members of the party’s executive committee on Saturday considered extending the ban to all Republican candidates for state offices. Sen. Sam Givhan, R-Huntsville, who opposed the amendment, said after the Saturday meeting that he doesn’t take AEA money but was opposed to preventing state lawmakers from accepting it.

When asked why he didn’t support the expansion to lawmakers, Givhan spoke about school choice.

“I think what’s driving that is school choice, and now that the governor has come out for school choice, I think it’s probably a little premature,” he said.

Givhan said he thinks AEA sometimes gets blamed for things that are not their fault, and he thinks their main concern is making sure employees get raises.

“It’s like the Alabama State Employees Association is looking out for state employees,” he said. “I mean, we don’t have them on the banned list. So, it’s an interesting, fluid situation.”

Wayne Reynolds, District 8 state school board member, also opposed the measure. Reynolds, who received $15,000 from AEA in 2022 on May 26, said he felt singled out and proposed limiting the ban to the Republican primary. 

“The reason for that is I didn’t have a problem winning the Republican primary,” Reynolds said. He said he did have opponents in the general election and accepted the money for that contest. 

Wahl moved to table the motion.

Chris Brown, from Jefferson County, said that the rule change was presented poorly and moved to table the entire change.

Later in the meeting, Andrew Sorrel, chairman of the Bylaws Committee, brought it back to the floor over objection that doing so was out of order. Wahl said it was fine because it was brought up as a rule change anew, rather than as a revised tabled motion.

It passed with 68% of 297 votes.


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Jemma Stephenson
Jemma Stephenson

Jemma Stephenson covers education as a reporter for the Alabama Reflector. She previously worked at the Montgomery Advertiser and graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.