Alabama Republican gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne says there is something "horribly" wrong with the state's tenure laws if a teacher convicted and sentenced for having sex with her eighth-grade student can still get paid a year's salary while she's serving time in a federal prison.
Washington County teacher Charlene Schmitz was sentenced to serve 10 years in a federal prison for her crime.
"It is difficult to imagine a more ridiculous scenario," Byrne said in a statement he released Wednesday. "Charged with the crime in June 2007, tried and convicted on federal charges in February 2008, and sentenced to ten years without parole in May 2008 - yet she has been paid over $75,000 in protected salary and benefits by the Washington County Schools - and that was just for the last year, while serving in a federal prison.
"The AEA and their legislative allies have protected the incompetent, and sadly, the criminal, all at the Alabama taxpayer's expense. I have a record of fighting against bad tenure laws for many years, as both a state senator and chancellor of the two-year college system. We must introduce some common sense to the AEA, and this includes reforms to prevent criminals from drawing a teaching salary while they serve time in prison," Byrne said.
"The Washington County school system tried to fire the convicted teacher, but the AEA-passed law gives tenured teachers the right to challenge their dismissal in front of an arbitrator. The arbitration cannot hold hearings, however, until Schmitz's appeals and related state charges have been resolved. According to the Associated Press and the Mobile Press-Register, Schmitz is eligible for any raises teachers may get between now and the conclusion of her case, and the school system has been forced to hire and pay another teacher to replace Schmitz.
"Last week, during the statewide tour announcing my candidacy for governor, I talked about the Three E's: Ethics Reform, Education Reform and Economic Development. The Education Reform begins with tenure reform, and it starts with passing sensible legislation to protect the competent, rid our schools of the incompetent and remove - without pay, the criminal," Byrne said.
-- posted by Markeshia Ricks