BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The Alabama Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Alabama Education Association on Friday.
“I think we have made a conscious effort to make sure that government is transparent,” says Theron Stokes, Associate Executive Director with Alabama Education Association commenting on their lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed in 2016 against the Public Education Employees’ Health Insurance Plan. Stokes says the board held a closed meeting, which was illegal according to the Open Meeting Act. In the meeting, the board discussed raising health insurance premiums. This came right after legislators announced a 2.5 percent raise for teachers.
“When PEEHIP raised their insurance rates, it eliminated the raise which teachers received. And in some cases, pay was even reduced,” Stokes said.
“I can remember a single person was paying $2 and I think it went up to $18 or $20. It’s been a huge increase,” says Richard Franklin with the Birmingham American Federation of Teachers.
It caused some teachers and staff to take on part-time jobs to make ends meet. A judge has now required that money be held in a holding account created by PEEHIP so as not to cause a blow to the current education budget. Some believe this is one of many factors that led to the current teacher shortage.
“Who wants to be a part of any organization overall if they constantly see people fighting? It should be about the kids,” says Franklin.
Now they hope other organizations will see this as push back and think twice moving forward.
“People feel like now they have been vindicated by the legal system and we appreciate that greatly,” says Stokes.
Officials are not sure whether premiums will go back down after this ruling. They also do not have specifics on how those refunds will be dispersed.