News

Study Questions if Alabama Scholarship Program Shows Gains

Sep 12, 2018

Private school scholarship recipients are not showing signs of improvement on standardized test scores. APR Student Reporter Jessica Rendall has more.

The results come from a study by the Institute for Social Science Research. They examined academic outcomes of 2,000 students attending private schools on a taxpayer-backed scholarship and discovered no improvement.

The program is intended to help students escape low-performing public schools, but the report discovered test scores were not improving and were in fact similar to their public school counterparts.

APR's Pat Duggins

Hundreds of children crowded the auditorium at the Ben Ray Main Library in Mobile for the city’s first “Drag Queen Story Hour.” Former Tuscaloosa resident Wade Brasfield, in his stage drag persona of “Ms. Khloe Kash,” read two books for the young crowd, “The Rainbow Fish,” and “Stella has a Family,’ which is about a little girl with two dads. Brasfield feels he would have benefited from a “drag queen story time” when he young, and had difficulty dealing with intolerance at school.

Coming Home (to APR)

Sep 8, 2018
Lawrence Rayner [Flickr]

It's true - a pet can make wherever you live feel like home.  That feeling of comfort and familiarity is born from a relationship that develops over time.  If you have been listening to Alabama Public Radio for a while, maybe it's time to make a contribution.  Welcome home!

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An inmate was fatally stabbed at a state prison in Springville, Alabama last weekend.

Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Bob Horton says the stabbing happened Sunday evening at St. Clair Correctional Facility.

Prison staff found 29-year-old Terry Terrell Pettiway unresponsive and suffering from a stab wound at around 6:45 p.m. Sunday evening. Pettiway was taken by ambulance to a local hospital where he died from his injuries.

Alabama’s capital city is currently dealing with a shortage of school bus drivers.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports the Montgomery Public Schools are working toward solutions for the lack of drivers at the start of this school year. A school official says the district is seeking more drivers, but they aren't receiving any applications despite efforts to advertise openings.

Of Montgomery Public Schools's 159 routes, 151 have a driver with no subs. The problem becomes even worse when drivers call out.

University Hospital
USA Health

The University of South Alabama in Mobile is changing the name of its hospital.

Late last week, university trustees approved changing the name of USA Medical Center to University Hospital.

A statement from the university's medical dean, Dr. John Marymount, says the new name reflects the school's mission to provide medical education and health care stemming from research.

The hospital is the only one in southwestern Alabama that offers the top-level of trauma care.

Labor Day Pet Safety

Sep 1, 2018
georgiaolive [Flickr]

Keeping your pet happy, healthy and safe should always be part of your holiday plans, and Labor Day is no exception.    The idea is to enjoy sharing the celebration with your best friend, not rushing your furry buddy to the emergency vet clinic!


Jefferson County is making plans to put an armed resource officer in every school in the county as part of a new school safety plan.

Local officials announced the plan as part of a press conference yesterday. Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale says there are currently 25 officers for the 56 schools in the county school system. He says they plan to hire enough contract deputies to cover all 56 county schools.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is reporting a string of large campaign contributions as she looks to reclaim fundraising dominance in the gubernatorial race.

Campaign finance reports show the incumbent Republican has received $95,000 in large contributions over the last three weeks.

Ivey received $25,000 each from the Alabama Builders Political Action Committee, the Trucking Association PAC and Georgia Crown Distributing Inc.

She also received $20,000 from another political action committee.

Ivey faces Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox in the November election.

Airbnb is set to start collecting local lodging tax in Alabama’s largest city within the next month.

Al.com reports the Birmingham City Council approved an agreement yesterday allowing the short-term rental website to collect the city's 6.5 percent tax on rentals. Airbnb already collects a 4 percent state lodging tax for all Alabama rentals, including Birmingham.

Assistant City Attorney Julie Barnard says the tax will be collected automatically when a room is booked within city limits. Airbnb then will send the collected tax revenue to the city.

Voters in Muscle Shoals are heading to the polls today to consider a measure that would raise local taxes.

School officials are seeking a 5-mil property tax increase, on top of the existing 7.5-mil municipal ad valorem tax currently in place in Muscle Shoals. Officials say the money would go toward funding the local public school system. Specifically, they are looking to build a new elementary school and a new band room for the city high school.

Hubbard trial
Todd J. Van Ernst

An appellate court has upheld most of the convictions against former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

Yesterday, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed 11 of the 12 counts against Hubbard for ethics violations, including using his public office to drum up clients and investments for his businesses.

For years, Hubbard was one of the state's most influential Republicans, but his political career came to an end with his 2016 ethics conviction.

Birmingham's public transportation agency is getting federal money to help it go electric.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority will receive $1.5 million through a grant program.

The federal agency says the money is supposed to be used for purchasing battery-run electric buses and charging stations.

The Birmingham grant money is among more than $84 million that's being provided in 41 states to update buses and other transportation infrastructure with advanced propulsion technologies.

An Alabama doctor has been sentenced to more than twelve years in prison for his role in a Montgomery pill mill.

U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin Sr. told Al.com that 56-year-old Gilberto Sanchez was found guilty last week of prescribing unnecessary controlled substances for his patients. He was also found guilty of committing health care fraud and laundering money.

American Humane Association

The 2018 Hero Dog Awards seek to find and recognize dogs who help people in many important ways. Dogs are nominated in one of seven categories: Service Dogs, Emerging Hero Dogs, Law Enforcement/Arson Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Guide/Hearing Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs.

The Emerging Hero category honors the partnership that often develops between human and dog. Some of these animals are trained in such areas as detection of diseases such as cancer; others are just pets who, without any special training, instinctively assist their human companions, and some are overcomers who have triumphed over adversity in an extraordinary way.      

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CHS library
Lowndes Co. BoE

There’s a new school superintendent in Lowndes County, Alabama.

The Lowndes County Board of Education announced yesterday that Jason Burroughs has signed a three-year contract with the school system – that according to WSFA-TV.

Burroughs was previously serving as the interim superintendent and was the former assistant superintendent. He also has served in various other positions during his 23 years with the school district.

Union members in south Alabama are heading back to work after suspending their strike against a soft drink bottler.

Employees of Coca-Cola Bottling Co. United in Mobile, Robertsdale and Leroy, as well as in Vancleave, Mississippi, went back to work Monday, suspending a walkout that began Aug. 9.

About 275 employees at the locations are represented by the Teamsters Union. Last year, the locastions were transferred from a North Carolina-based bottler to the Birmingham-based Coca-Cola United.

Auburn GLA
Frank Susko / Invisible Histories Project

A new project is documenting the history of LGBTQ people in the Deep South, a region that once all but forced gays, lesbians and others to live in hiding.

The nonprofit Invisible Histories Project has gathered volumes of information about gay life in Alabama, including decades-old directories of gay-friendly businesses; activist T-shirts; records from gay-rights groups; and rainbow-themed material.

The organization is also expanding into Mississippi and Georgia this year, and organizers hope to cover the entire Southeast within a few years.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey says the state comptroller has updated an agreement with county sheriffs to end a practice allowing them to pocket state money left over from inmate food programs.

Al.com reports starting next month, the affidavit that county sheriffs must sign will contain new language clarifying the use of jail food funds.

It states the sheriffs must agree funds will only be spent on "preparing food, serving food and other services incident to the feeding of prisoners." The old version didn't specify use of funds.

American Humane Association

The 2018 Hero Dog Awards seek to find and recognize dogs who help people in many important ways. Dogs are nominated in one of seven categories: Service Dogs, Emerging Hero Dogs, Law Enforcement/ Arson Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Guide/Hearing Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs.

A Guide Dog is trained to lead, follow commands, ignore distractions, and even disobey a command that would put its human partner in danger. The human also must be trained on how to handle the dog and how to be a good leader of the team. A Hearing Dog is specially trained to alert its deaf owner to sounds we all take for granted. Unlike a Guide Dog that must be of a certain body size in order to lead a person, a Hearing Dog can be large or small, pure-bred or mixed breed. Many are shelter animals who are determined to have the intelligence and temperament to serve as a Hearing Dog. It is a perfect blending of needs - deaf individuals have the opportunity to live an independent life, and dogs who may literally die for lack of homes are given a purpose and owners that will love and care for them. Guide dogs and hearing dogs are living examples of the trust bond between human and animal.

In the world of Search and Rescue operations, dogs have a very special place.  Their keen sense of smell, excellent night vision, extremely sensitive hearing and endurance have made them crucial in efforts to locate people or animals who are missing or trapped.  They truly are life savers!

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Stan Ingold / Alabama Public Radio

               

This year we’re studying at all of Alabama’s Capitals. We have already looked at the territorial capital of St. Stephens and the controversial role Huntsville plays in the story. This time we're looking at Alabama’s first official state capital…one that was built out of the wilderness…

     Its quiet and peaceful at this remote location in south central Alabama on the confluence of the Alabama and Cahaba rivers. But at one time, this was the bustling capital city of the newly formed state of Alabama. 

One of Alabama's largest publicly held companies, the Birmingham-based Energen Corp., is being bought out by Texas-based Diamondback Energy Inc. in a stock deal worth more than $9 billion.

The companies announced the transaction in a statement released Tuesday. They say the deal will create a company that will operate in the Permian Basin, which produces oil and natural gas located in west Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

The combined company will produce the equivalent of about 222,000 barrels of oil daily and own more than 266,000 acres in the region.

A city in north Alabama has approved the use of taxpayer money to pay legal expenses for a police officer charged in the death of an armed man police say was suicidal.

Al.com reports the Huntsville City Council voted unanimously late last week to cover the defense of 25-year-old Huntsville Police Officer William Darby.

Darby was indicted earlier this month on a murder charge in the shooting of 49-year-old Jeffrey Parker.

American Humane Association

The 2018 Hero Dog Awards seek to find and recognize dogs who help people in many important ways.  Dogs are nominated in one of seven categories:  Service Dogs, Emerging Hero Dogs, Law Enforcement/Arson Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs, Guide/Hearing Dogs. 

Interacting with an animal can be very theraputic for humans. While other animals can be great therapy animals, dogs really excel in helping humans who are going through a difficult or troubling time. A certified Therapy Dog can make a significant contribution to many treatment programs.

Dogs began helping our military forces as early as World War I, but it wasn't until World War II that the Army established its first K-9 Corps. They serve as scouts, detection specialists for explosives, and assist on guard duty to protect US service men and women around the world. Nowadays, dogs have their own military service records and can be awarded commendations for outstanding service. It is not possible to count the number of lives military dogs have saved, sometimes at the extreme cost of their own. The Military Dog category seeks to recognize the dedication and valor of these extraordinary animals.

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The Alabama Supreme Court has stayed the trial of a Montgomery police officer facing murder charges.

Aaron Cody Smith was scheduled to go to trial Monday on murder charges for the 2016 shooting of 58-year-old Greg Gunn. Yesterday, state Supreme Court justices stayed the trial to consider his appeal on a number of issues.

Smith's attorneys argue he should be immune from prosecution because he was acting in self-defense.

They also argue the trial judge tainted the jury pool with comments about the case.

Not everyone garnering political power in Alabama sits in the governor's mansion, the state legislature or in congress. Last week, APR political commentator Steve Flowers told us about Education Chief Paul Hubbert and the influence he had on the workings of Alabama government. This week, Steve talks about how Hubbert tried to take that power to a higher level...

Tabitha Isner, the Democratic candidate in Alabama's 2nd Congressional District, says Russian hackers made more than a thousand attempts to break into her campaign website last month.

Isner says there were 1,400 attempts to break into the website. Most came from accounts with Russian internet service providers.

Isner says she has no idea why her campaign was targeted. She says the hackers were attempting to log in manually to the site.

A university in Alabama is grappling with a housing shortage after a tornado is and is buying mobile homes to provide living space for students.

WBMA-TV reports Jacksonville State University plans to use 22 mobile homes to house students this fall.

Many houses and apartments were destroyed or heavily damaged when a tornado struck on March 19, creating a housing crunch in the city.

Alabama is accepting comments on its proposal to put a work requirement on 74,000 Medicaid recipients.  

The Alabama Medicaid Agency opened a new public comment period on the proposal.

The proposal would require 35 hours of work, job training, education or volunteer service each week. Exceptions would be made for people with young or disabled children

The Alabama Department of Public Health has identified an outbreak of whooping cough in Shelby and Jefferson counties.  

Health officials said Friday that nine children testified positive for pertussis, also known as whooping cough. Another 22 people have developed symptoms.

Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It begins with a runny nose and low grade fever but develops into a violent cough.

Health officials identified a number of churches and camps where the infected people attended in June and July.

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