Students First Act
The Students First Act (SFA) (Act 2011-270) (Ala. Code §16-24C-1, et seq.) went into effect on July 1, 2011. It applies generally to tenured teachers and non-probationary classified employees as defined by the act, and repeals and replaces former law under which certified personnel decisions were subject to de novo review by independent hearing officers (arbitrators) who were selected under a process that was overseen by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Under former law, only limited evidentiary proceedings (described in the statute as “meetings”) were conducted by the employer. Employers subject to this Act include all city and county boards of education, all educational and correctional institutions under the control of the Department of Youth Services, the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, and two-year educational institutions operated under the authority and control of the Department of Postsecondary Education. The SFA returns primary authority for conducting personnel hearings to the employer. Under the SFA, the employer’s decision is entitled to “deference” and is reviewed on an evidentiary record that is made available to the reviewing hearing officer if the employee appeals an adverse decision.