Posts Tagged ‘larry lee’

Share your story with the State Commission to Reduce Poverty

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Last Thursday, June 24th, the Alabama Commission to Reduce Poverty met at the YWCA Interfaith Hospitality House in Birmingham.

Jennifer Clarke, Chief Housing Officer at the YWCA, talked about the YWCA’s work revitalizing Birmingham’s historic Woodlawn neighborhood.

Larry Lee, Director of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries’ Center for Rural Alabama, talked with commission members about the work he has done identifying successful rural schools. His report, Lessons Learned From Rural Schools, highlights ten schools in low-income communities that have been successful by creating a positive culture and finding creative ways to work together.

Above: Larry Lee, Director of the Center for Rural Alabama. Photo via The Daily Yonder.

Commission members discussed strategies to involve community members across the state in conversations about how Alabama can be a healthier, more prosperous state.  These conversations will help the commission set goals for its work.

There’s no time like the present to get the conversation started. So tell us – what’s a way you and your neighbors can get involved in making Alabama a healthier, more prosperous state? Let us know by emailing the vice chair of the commission, Kristina Scott, with “Poverty Commission” as the subject.

Posted by Will Thomas

A chicken-and-egg conundrum?

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

The Alabama Select Commission on High School Graduation and Student Dropouts recently made recommendations to reduce our high school drop out rate, which currently stands at over 40 percent.   Those recommendations included:

  • tracking students at-risk for dropping out
  • creating a positive, pro-learning climate that reflects multiple learning styles
  • establishing recovery academies for dropouts who would like to complete their education
  • changing disciplinary measures to encourage positive behavior, not dropping out

Why does the drop out rate matter? Well, as the Montgomery Advertiser editorial board noted,

The fiscal cost of such a high dropout rate is staggering – billions of dollars in lost income potential over the lifetimes of dropouts, with corresponding losses in tax revenue. But more importantly the human cost is incalculable, a terrible toll in stunted human potential, in lives far less productive and satisfying than they might have been.

Larry Lee’s Daily Yonder Piece, “Two Counties and the Difference Education Makes,” has an interesting take on this issue, particularly its impact on rural Alabama.  As Larry points out, there is a chicken-and-egg conundrum: if rural students get a high school diploma, they are more likely to go off to college, move away and find a job elsewhere – a rural brain drain. Yet if students are undereducated, the county is less able to attract economic development. And what incentive do students have to pursue higher education if there are no jobs for them?

We frequently write about how Alabama’s low educational attainment hinders economic development, as shown in this Southern Education Foundation report “High School Dropouts: Alabama’s Number One Education and Economic Problem,” or this National Report Card on Higher Education, which states,

Alabama’s underperformance in educating its young population could limit the state’s access to a competitive workforce and weaken its economy over time…[these trends] undermine the state’s ability to compete successfully in a global economy.

Alabama needs jobs. And to attract employers, Alabama needs higher levels of college graduation. But first and foremost, we have to fix our high school dropout epidemic.

How can you help? The best way to make an impact – and something that many of us already do – is to mentor a child or young adult. Reach out to students in your community, your church, and your neighborhood. Provide encouragement and support. Mentoring doesn’t need to be formal, although you can connect with an at-risk child through programs such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Mentoring is a small thing that goes a long way towards helping our schools and our teachers support Alabama’s students.

For more insight into the high school dropout crisis nationwide and its economic impact, see this excellent post from Compassion in Politics. For more resources on mentoring, visit our resource page.

Posted by Robyn Hyden

What we’re reading: The Legacy of a Cotton Culture

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Larry Lee is the director of the Center for Rural Alabama and a good friend to APP.  He can always be counted on to give me feedback on our APP newsletter, and I appreciate his honesty.

That honesty is readily apparent in his must-read account of Alabama’s economic development history, The Legacy of a Cotton Culture.  He has a great deal of insight into why Alabama has the second greatest job loss in the country.

During the first half of the 1900s, Alabama tried to join the “New South” by looking at New England and chanting, “Cheap labor, cheap land, low taxes.”  And for awhile, we were awash in cotton and garment industry jobs.  But those days are gone.

In 1949 the good citizens of Andalusia thought the factory whistle would blow until Gabriel blew his horn.  But it fell silent 20 years ago.  Today across Alabama, buildings where workers once breathed cotton dust and risked arms and hands, stand empty only to be visited by the occasional school boy hurling rocks to break out another window.  And low-slung buildings where sewing machines once whirred watch as kudzu creeps across empty parking lots.

Today there are 23 counties where unemployment is 14 percent or higher.  All are rural.

They had 19,000 textile jobs in 1950 and 334,300 acres of cotton.

For decades, the future was no farther than getting to the end of the next cotton row or putting the mule in the barn as sun set.  The children of sharecroppers were far more likely to hear the rasp of a cotton pick sack being dragged on sandy soil than the ringing of a school bell.

This is the first part of a three-part series.  I can’t wait to read the next installment.

Posted by Kristina Scott