The Alabama Legislature will face tough choices this year on solving problems of the state’s crowded, obsolete and under-funded prison system, and the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama is preparing a series of briefings to address “a system in crisis.”
PARCA, a non-profit organization that does nonpartisan research on issues facing state and local governments in Alabama, outlined problems that it said could lead to a federal takeover of the prisons system if they are not solved.
Gov. Kay Ivey has proposed the construction of three new men’s prisons at a cost of $950 million as one step toward dealing with the issues of crowding, health care and crumbling facilities. Read more.
Who Knows What Voters Want?
Alabama’s Public Affairs Research Council took a serious stab at finding out in the months leading up to Alabama’s General Election on Nov. 6. They surveyed policy professionals and registered voters and got this view of the state electorate’s state of mind. Alabama priorities, the survey found, are:
1. K-12 Education
3. Government Corruption and Ethics
4. Mental Health and Substance Abuse
5. Poverty and Homelessness State
Plus: Jobs and the Economy; Crime and Public Safety; Job Training and Workforce Development: Improving the State’s Image; and Tax Reform.
You can learn more about what fellow voters considered important and why, more factual information about these issues and about specifics of the PARCA study in the Alabama Priorities report.
You also can read PARCA’s take on what passage or defeat of the statewide amendments would mean at the PARCA Statewide Constitutional Amendment Analysis.
Alabama students showed progress in most measures during the four years the state used the ACT Aspire standardized tests for students in the grades 3-8 and 10, according to a report by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.
The state began using the ACT Aspire suite of tests in the 2013-2014 school year. It was administered for the final time in 2017.
The PARCA report, released this week, said gains by Alabama students on the Aspire tests were strongest in math. There were modest gains in reading proficiency for grades 3-6, but results were mixed for grades 7, 8 and 10, the report said.
The report includes results of students’ scores statewide, by school systems and in comparison to national averages.
Six candidates vying to be the next governor of Alabama sat down for interviews with professors and professionals from across the state Wednesday night during a forum sponsored by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.
Three Republican candidates – Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Evangelist Scott Dawson and state Sen. Bill Hightower – and three Democratic candidates – former state Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, former state Rep. James Fields and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox – participated in the forum, held at Woodrow Hall in Birmingham’s Woodlawn community. Gov. Kay Ivey, who also is seeking the Republican nomination in the June 5 primary, was invited to the forum, said PARCA director of communications Marci Smith, but the governor declined.
Organized by the PARCA Roundtable group of young professionals, the forum featured 12-minute, one-on-one interviews with each candidate by interviewers who belong to or were selected by the Roundtable. After the interviews, the candidates took turns answering questions submitted by the audience. Read more.
The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama has found that Alabama high schools are sending more graduates out into the world and they are sending more students to college, but some of those students are taking a little bit of time out in the world before they head to campus.
In 2016, 63 percent of high school graduates enrolled in college in the year after they graduated from high school, according to PARCA. In 2014, that portion was 65 percent
Alabama’s roads and bridges are in relatively good condition compared to other Southeastern states.
More of the state’s roads are in good condition compared to other states, fewer are in poor condition, and the percentage of its bridges that are deficient and need to be replaced is about average for the Southeast, according to the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.
But in its “How Alabama Roads Compare” report, PARCA found that the state has devoted an increasingly large share of its budget to preserving existing roads, and it has a shrinking pool of money available for new projects. In fact, in recent years Alabama has borrowed more than $1.3 billion, but the authority to borrow has been exhausted. In 2018, Alabama will have about $250 million less to spend on roads than it had in 2017 because of the loss of money to borrow and an increase in the state’s debt service.
PARCA in its report notes that Alabama has not raised its 18-cents per gallon motor fuels tax in 25 years. Meanwhile, improved fuel economy of cars and trucks means less gas is being bought in Alabama, and so the tax revenues have dropped.
Read the full report here.
The divide between state government and its people is wide, and there’s no bridge in sight.
In a recent survey conducted by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, more than two-thirds of those surveyed said state government officials don’t care what they think, and slightly less than two-thirds said they feel they have no say in what government does. Read more.
Destination of Graduates: Chart from PARCA shows where 2015 Alabama grads headed after high school.
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.