By Erica Thomas, 1819 News
The Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB) has joined other organizations across the nation in distancing itself from the National School Boards Association (NSBA). The move comes after the NSBA sent a letter to President Joe Biden earlier this year, asking for federal intervention to take place concerning threats to local school boards across the nation.
The AASB withheld its dues to NSBA for this year and delegates from each school board met this week in Hoover to discuss membership in NSBA and other matters. The meeting was a part of the AASB’s annual Convention & Delegate Assembly at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The members voted on a proposal to change AASB’s bylaws, which require it to be an NSBA member and to officially withdraw from NSBA.
AASB Executive Director Sally Smith told 1819 News the decision to withdraw came after several issues.
“I will say [the withdrawal is] because of longstanding concerns,” Smith said. “The letter to the President and subsequent events was really the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.”
In an official statement to 1819 News, Smith said, “AASB chose to let its membership in NSBA lapse due to long-standing concerns with the organization’s governance and commitment to its mission and its ability to represent Alabama school board members’ needs. The letter to the president and subsequent developments were symptoms of that dysfunction.”
Dana Vandiver, the Director of Public Relations with the AASB, told 1819 News in October that while the state organization is concerned about increased hostility towards local boards of education, the association’s stance on law enforcement intervention is that local law enforcement should continue to handle those matters.
“We sent a letter to our membership regarding that letter that went to Biden,” said Vandiver. “We say that if there are any acts of unlawfulness or crimes being committed, those need to be handled by local law enforcement. So, we definitely did not provide any input or ask NSBA to call for federal intervention in any way.”
In an official statement from October, the AASB said its leaders were “extremely concerned” about threats to public officials but they did not agree to the letter sent to Biden.
“While the AASB is a member of the National School Boards Association, members were not consulted about the need for federal intervention nor are we aware of any state making that request,” the Alabama organization stated. “In fact, AASB believes NSBA’s letter requesting federal intervention is inconsistent with NSBA’s support for local control.”
Vandiver said the AASB recommends school board members listen to their communities and consider any input from parents and community members. Vandiver said hostility is not the example adults should set for students.
The NSBA is a federation of state associations that claims to advocate for “equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership.”
Smith said the AASB believes in having national networking opportunities and federal advocacy for staff but that the AASB will pursue other opportunities for those services.
“Advocacy for public school students at the national level is more important than ever, and AASB believes in providing members and staff with national networking opportunities,” Smith said. “We have no confidence that NSBA can effectively meet those needs, so we will be pursuing other options to provide these services to Alabama’s school board members. AASB is the 17th state to announce departure from NSBA either now or at the end of the membership year.”
The AASB is working on a formal announcement to send to members. That letter should be received by Monday, Smith said.
Other state school board associations that have withdrawn membership from the NSBA include Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Illinois, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Wisconsin, among others.