Jury selection begins for Hubbard trial, Alabama's Pre-K Program named the nation's best

May 16, 2016

Jury selection is ongoing in the trial of Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

About 100 of the 140 Lee County residents were on hand as the selection process began in Opelika. 

Republican Speaker Mike Hubbard faces 23 felony ethics charges of using his political position for personal gain back in October 2014. Hubbard has maintained his innocence throughout the indictments. 

Hubbard faces removal from office if he’s convicted.

The Speaker’s legal troubles come as two other top Alabama officials also face trouble. Governor Robert Bentley faces an impeachment push amid a sex-tinged scandal. Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is suspended after being accused of violating judicial ethics.

For ten straight years, Alabama’s state-funded First Class Pre-K program the nation’s best.

The National Institute for Early Education Research ranks pre-kindergarten programs across the country each year based on quality. Alabama met or exceeded all of the institute’s quality benchmarks examining things like student-to-teacher ratios and educator qualifications.

Allison Muhlendorf is the Executive Director of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance. She says students that participate in the Pre-K program have a leg up on their peers.

“The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama has studied First Class Pre-K students as they go through their K-12 education through the 6th grade. And they found that First Class Pre-K alumni are doing better than their peers in reading and math at every grade level studied.”

Now even more students will be able to take part. The state legislature approved a $16 million funding increase that will open more than 150 additional pre-k classrooms and enroll more than 3,000 students statewide.

The University of Alabama will defend a national championship, and we don’t mean for football.

A team of engineering students is heading to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a robotic mining competition. NASA wants fresh ideas on building robots to dig up rocks and soil on the Moon or Mars. Alabama’s seven thousand dollar robot miner is called MARTE 3.0.

It’s the size of a small riding lawnmower on thick metal wheels. Assistant Professor Kenny Ricks says MARTE may be built for NASA, but it’s inspired by diggers on Earth…

“From trench diggers, to hole diggers, to augers, to…you name it…there’s front end loaders, there’s back hoes, there’s bulldozers to scrapers. So, we have a lot of different ideas.”

MARTE is based on Alabama’s national championship space mining robot from last year. Ricks says the competition teaches students real life lessons on problem solving and working as a team.