University of Alabama

The Alabama Department of Education has restored funding to a reading program that educators feared was in danger at many public schools.

Earlier this week, superintendents were scrambling for funding to replace a $7.5 million cut to the Alabama Reading Initiative, which allows for reading coaches in public schools. The cuts were performance-based, and many schools with above-average reading scores were in danger of cutting out their Reading Initiative programs entirely.

MARTE
Alabama Astrobiotics

Alabama’s state preschool program has been named the best in the country for ten years running.

The National Institute for Early Education Research ranks pre-kindergarten programs across the country each year based on quality. For the tenth year in a row, the institute named Alabama’s state-funded First Class Pre-K program the nation’s best. Alabama met or exceeded all of the institute’s quality benchmarks examining things like student-to-teacher ratios and educator qualifications.

Blossom: Renaissance Pig

May 11, 2016
Parker Branton

It's festival season in Alabama, and a common face you will see isn’t what you would expect. APR student reporter Parker Branton traveled around the state, and not for the music, or the corn dogs. Here is the saga of Blossom the Painting Pig...

Festival goers look over the masterpieces painted by what more than a few of her fans refer to as a modern day “pigcasso.” Scott and Jackie McQueen are the owners of this talented swine. After years of begging for a pig, Jackie got more than she bargained for.

“Our little pig’s name is Blossom.”

Alabama State Capitol
Stan Ingold / APR

Alabama lawmakers are beginning the final two days of the legislative session with some major decisions before them.

Governor Robert Bentley's $800 million prison construction plan, proposed payday lending regulations and a division of oil spill settlement funds are among the top issues that will be decided. Lawmakers return to Montgomery Tuesday.   

 A proposed split of the oil spill settlement money is facing critical votes this week. The Senate will consider a House-passed plan to use the money to pay state debts and for road projects in coastal Alabama

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is due to testify before State Auditor Jim Zeigler later this morning regarding potential misuse of state funds, but Ziegler says he doubts Bentley will show up.

Zeigler says the state auditor has the authority to call any state official to testify under oath if there are suspicions that state money is being misused. Late last month, he ordered the governor to address several areas including the use of BP settlement money and records related to his relationship with former staffer Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

Embattled Gov. Robert Bentley is maintaining he has done nothing illegal or unethical, a day after Alabama lawmakers revived an impeachment effort against him.

Bentley initially tried to sidestep impeachment questions. He says the past year has been "difficult" and implored people to trust him.

Bentley last month acknowledged making inappropriate remarks to a female political adviser.

It was on this date five years ago when a super tornado outbreak hit parts of west and west-central Alabama in 2011.

Over fifty people were killed in the city of Tuscaloosa and twelve percent of the town was destroyed. 

Tuscaloosa’s Acting Planning Director Phillip O’Leary spent the first hours after the tornado in his office. When he finally visited the damage zone, one thing stuck with him…

A state tax break that some say sparked a renaissance in downtown Birmingham and elsewhere will end unless Alabama senators agree to extend the program.

A bill to extend the tax credits for seven years has stalled amid opposition from Senate leaders. Sen. Trip Pittman says that he did not anticipate any action on the legislation this year.

The three-year program, approved in 2013, gave up to $20 million in tax credits each year for historic building renovation.

SWIRLL
Alex AuBuchon / APR

All week long on Alabama Public Radio, we’ve been looking back at the tornado outbreak on April 27, 2011. The storms impacted homeowners and businesses, and you’ve heard from many of them during our coverage.

Now we’ll look ahead. For the past two months, dozens of scientists have been conducting groundbreaking research on tornadoes and severe weather right here in Alabama.

APR’s Alex AuBuchon has more on the impact that research could have on meteorologists' understanding of severe weather and forecasters’ ability to predict it.

2011 Tornadoes: A Forecaster's nightmare

Apr 20, 2016

The April 2011 tornado outbreak caused widespread destruction, costing lives and billions of dollars in damage.  Local TV weathercasters helped spread the word on where tornadoes were and where they’re going. But what happens when the weatherman becomes a victim of the severe weather while he’s on the air? APR’s MacKenzie Bates has the story of one forecaster where on April 27th, 2011, the saying the story hits close to home takes on a whole new meaning.

Ask anyone in the TV news business, and they’ll tell you people tune in mostly for the weather.

2011 Tornadoes: A Young Person's Perspective

Apr 20, 2016

Five years ago a series of devastating tornadoes ripped through west-central Alabama. This week on Alabama Public Radio we’re looking at the impact of these storms five years later. A-P-R student reporter Josh Hoppenstein spoke with University of Alabama students past and present to get their take on the storms.

“This is a large, violent tornado coming up on downtown Tuscaloosa, be in a safe place right now.”

On April 27, 2011, TV weatherman James Spann’s jacket was off and his sleeves were rolled up. Local viewers in tornado prone Alabama knew that meant trouble.

Alabama's attorney general is appealing a recent ruling that declared the state's death penalty sentencing system unconstitutional.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange says Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Tracie Todd doesn't have the authority to prevent the state from seeking the death penalty against defendants who are charged with capital murder.

In Alabama death penalty cases, juries recommend sentences but judges have the final say. It’s not uncommon for state judges to overturn a jury recommendation of life in prison in favor of the death penalty.

Gov. Robert Bentley is hinting that lawmakers could be back in special session if they fail to pass a budget that he feels adequately funds Medicaid.

Bentley says he would veto any budget without an additional $100 million for Medicaid. While lawmakers could override his veto, Bentley says that did not preclude a special session.

Commissioner Stephanie Azar says Medicaid needs that amount to avoid cuts and continue a switch to managed care.

A bare-bones General Fund budget that could mean deep cuts for Medicaid passed a House committee and could see a House vote next week.

The House Ways and Means Committee approved the draft budget yesterday, putting it in line for a House vote next week. The state Medicaid commissioner says this budget will result in some deep cuts to Medicaid and other state services. Gov. Robert Bentley has already threatened to veto the budget unless lawmakers find more Medicaid funding.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley's prison construction proposal is facing its first legislative test.

Bentley is asking lawmakers to approve an $800 million bond issue to build four new prisons and close most existing facilities. Some members of the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee questioned aspects of the project during a public hearing Wednesday.

The U.S. Supreme Court says Alabama’s highest court overstepped its bounds when it invalidated a lesbian mother’s adoption. APR’s Alex AuBuchon has more.

 The Supreme Court ruled unanimously to throw out an Alabama Supreme Court decision denying a lesbian woman adoption rights she had previously been granted.

The woman had adopted three children with a former partner. When she tried to ensure her visitation rights, the Alabama Supreme Court said her adoption was invalid.

A new study at the University of Alabama is looking to study parents of children who have cancer.

The research is being conducted by the College of Human Environmental Sciences to see how parents of a child with cancer react while the child is going through treatment.

Dr. Sherwood Burns-Nader is heading up the study. She feels this survey can help future parents cope better with the process.

Selma will honor its history as a center for voting rights activism this weekend. The annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee marks the fifty-first anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

Officials expect crowds will be down from the numbers that visited for the fiftieth anniversary and to see President Barack Obama speak. The weekend will include an education summit tomorrow, a hip-hop summit on Saturday, and the bridge crossing on Sunday at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

The Alabama House of Representatives approved measures to cement the state’s right-to-work status and to ban the sale of fetal tissue yesterday.

One bill would amend the state’s constitution to prevent companies from requiring their employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment. The practice has already been prohibited under state law, but Republicans say adding the language to the state constitution will make Alabama more appealing to industry. Lawmakers fell three votes short of passing the measure last week. Yesterday, the bill passed 69-33.

The Tuscaloosa Police Department has announced how officers will be disciplined after a violent arrest last fall that went viral.

Police Chief Steven Anderson says Officer James Kent is still on administrative leave with pay pending disciplinary action. Officer Justin Sams received a written reprimand along with remedial training to improve his communication skills.

Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

The next session for Alabama’s state legislature will convene at noon today.

State lawmakers are starting the 2016 session on Groundhog Day to some very familiar budget issues, but there will likely be some new debates as well.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is fining an Alabama auto parts supplier over $170,000 for unsafe working conditions.

Daeil USA is based in Valley, Alabama and supplies parts to Hyundai and Kia. OSHA recently issued 17 citations against the company, 10 of which were classified as serious.

They’re accusing the employer of willful failure to develop procedures to prevent multiple machinery from starting up during maintenance and servicing. OSHA says the unguarded machinery put workers in danger of amputations and other serious occupational hazards.

“Saban: The Making of a Coach”           

Author: Monte Burke

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Pages: 324

Price: $27.00 (Hardcover)

There is a good case to be made for not writing biographies until the subject is dead. Feelings are inevitably hurt. The subject’s family and friends may learn things they don’t need to know.

The U.S. Department of Transportation will investigate whether Alabama violated civil rights law with closures and service reductions at rural driver's license offices. A-P-R’s Stan Ingold has more…

 U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx says it is critical that license services be free from discrimination. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in programs that receive federal funds.

The department says it has not reached any conclusions.

Etowah County Detention Center
Hannah Rappleye / NBC News

A federal judge has authorized the force-feeding of one detainee on hunger strike at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Etowah County.

Chief U.S District Judge Karon O. Bowdre authorized the force-feeding last week, if needed, for a detainee reported to be in deteriorating health. Bowdre also authorized medical monitoring of other detainees participating in the hunger strike.

48 detainees at the Etowah County Detention Center began a hunger strike two weeks ago today, on Nov. 25. 15 continue to participate.

Dothan’s police department is under scrutiny after a blog post alleged officers planted drugs and weapons on suspects for nearly a decade.

The Henry County Report, a blog run by the nonprofit Alabama Justice Project, claims the group obtained documents indicating more than a dozen officers on a special narcotics team routinely planted evidence in cases against young black men.

Elliott Spillers
Pete Pajor / Crimson White

Students at the University of Alabama repeated a list of demands for more diversity on the Tuscaloosa campus.

A student march started at Malone-Hood Plaza and ended at Gorgas Library, where the students' eleven goals were restated. The group “We Are Done UA” wants a safe space for students of color, a diversity class for freshmen, and a way to report hate crimes and sexual abuse on campus, among other things.

Stuart Bell
University of Alabama

University of Alabama President Stuart Bell says he plans to add a central diversity officer to campus. The new position is part of an effort to ensure a welcoming and inclusive campus for students of all backgrounds.

Bell released a statement Wednesday saying he's asked the school's Strategic Planning Council to identify a diversity officer and develop a new campus diversity plan.

Bell says the university's provost and vice president for student affairs have also been asked to review the school's current initiatives and ensure they're accessible throughout campus.

Supreme Court
Wikimedia

An Alabama woman who had her adoption rights stripped by the state Supreme Court is now turning to the highest court in the nation.

The woman identified as V.L. adopted her long-term partner’s three children in Georgia. When the couple later split, the biological mother prevented V.L. from seeing her children. V.L. asked Alabama's Supreme court for help. Instead, the justices invalidated her adoptions.

Cathy Sakimura is an attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and represents the woman. She says what Alabama’s Supreme Court did was unprecedented.

Official body cam video from the aftermath of the November 8 arrests of three University of Alabama students. Certain confidential information has been redacted from the video.

Advisory: Some portions of these videos contain strong language and other potentially disturbing content.

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