From PARCA: Lackluster 2016 Receipts to General Fund and Education Trust Fund Perpetuate State’s Budget Woes

Both the accounts that pay for state government operations, the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund (ETF), ended the 2016 Fiscal Year basically flat when compared to the previous year, a sign that the state’s struggles to balance budgets will continue in the future. What would have been a moderately healthy year of receipts to the Education Trust Fund was dragged down by a drop in corporate income tax collections and the shifting of some revenue into the General Fund to cover anticipated shortfalls in that account. The perpetually struggling General Fund was buoyed by that revenue shift from the ETF and by the increase of tax rates on cigarettes, but was weighed down by a drop of non-recurring revenue sources and lagging collections of taxes on oil and gas production. For the Fiscal Year that ended Sept. 30, 2016, total receipts to the ETF were $6 billion, up only slightly from 2015.

Destination of Graduates: Chart from PARCA shows where 2015 Alabama grads headed after high school.

Most Alabama Students with a High School Diploma Go To College, but More Than a Third Do Not.

There were more Alabama high school graduates in 2015 than the year before, and the class sent more students to college as their next step. Still, more than 17,000 state students with a 2015 diploma did not continue their schooling immediately.

Within that picture were disparities: Systems with low poverty rates sent most of their graduates on to four-year colleges and universities. Systems with somewhat higher poverty percentages still sent a large percentage of graduates off to college. However, more of those graduates start at a community college.

The top four Alabama high schools in terms of college-going rate are magnet schools: three in Montgomery and one in Birmingham.

These highlights come from a new report by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama that uses more extensive data now available from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education. The full report lets you search for information by school systems and individual high schools. Here’s PARCA’s full report.

PARCA: Tackling Alabama’s Budget Problem

Too little money for Medicaid? Not enough dollars to deal with overcrowded prisons? A fight over taking parks money for other purposes? Why does Alabama always face budget problems? The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama has looked behind the legislative battles to root causes of the recurrent problem.

2016 Primary Election Voter Guide

Alabama voters go to the polls March 1, and there’s a lot more on the ballot than the high-profile presidential race. In Democratic and Republican primaries, voters will nominate candidates  for U.S. Senate and the state’s Public Service Commission president, Supreme Court and Board of Education, plus decide on an amendment. Voters in Jefferson and Shelby counties will pick nominees for judgeships, school board seats, district attorney and treasurer offices. BirminghamWatch and Weld For Birmingham, Public Radio WBHM 90.3 FM, Starnes Publishing, B-Metro and Kaleidoscope are collaborating to offer this one-stop, interactive, factual, non-partisan Voter Guide. Candidate profiles, sample ballots, answers about issues, campaign contributor lists, info on where to vote and more.

Ten Stories from 2015

Miss important stories from BirminghamWatch this year? Want a refresher on subjects likely to make news in 2016? Here are ten BirminghamWatch stories from 2015 to check out or read again.

Alabama Teacher of the Year Leaves Classroom. Here’s Her Story.

“No Guarantee” for Future Tax Breaks to Help Rescue Historic Birmingham Buildings

Fall Behind, Pay the Price: Remediation Rate Story

Alabama Cities Act Quickly, End Deals with Company Criticized for Collection Tactics

Sound Familiar? Jeffco’s $5Million-plus Financial Software Not Working Right

Study: Alabama’s Government Integrity Ranks Among Best in a Bad Lot

Jim Williams, PARCA and a Scorecard on Improving Alabama Government

Assignment Birmingham: Build on City’s Assets to Create Innovation Powerhouse

At UAB, Carly’s Law Leads to Trial of Cnnabinoid Drug to Treat People Suffering from Seizures

At Hueytown Elementary School, Love and Data Tackle Alabama’s Education Problems

A Birmingham View

Photographer Walt Stricklin has helped us see our city for much of the past two decades, first at The Birmingham News, now often at art shows, and recently as a contributor to BirminghamWatch.

It’s Walt Stricklin’s work that greets all of us on, with his city skyline view in the site logo.

This holiday week, please join BirminghamWatch in enjoying his distinctive photographs of places that define Birmingham, for ourselves and others.

More About 2015 Alabama Student Test Scores

The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama and Alabama School Connection have taken deeper looks at recently-released tests of the state’s student academic performance. PARCA assessed results from Alabama high school juniors on the ACT college readiness test. Only 16 percent of them were “ready” on all four sections of the test: English, Reading, Mathematics and Science. PARCA considers factors affecting the 2015 scores and concludes: “Alabama has significant room to grow in producing high school graduates who are ready for success in college.”

The PARCA report dealt only with the test for high school juniors. But the “significant room to grow” conclusion applies to the huge body of results from the ACT Aspire test given in grades three through eight.