Alabama: Stagnant and poorly educated (3 creative ideas)

Governor Kay Ivey
Governor Kay Ivey

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Alabama grew by about 12,751 people last year.

That’s less than a sellout crowd at Coleman Coliseum where Alabama plays basketball.

Census Bureau estimates show 45 of Alabama’s 67 counties lost population between 2017 and 2018. And 43 Alabama counties saw more deaths than births.

When I was a young man, Alabama had 8 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

We now have 7, but with reapportionment looming after the 2020 Census, it’s projected we will lose another seat—bringing us down to only 6.

This is a result of a number of factors including a high death rate probably because of an older population, but people are just not moving to Alabama.

According to, “Gov. Kay Ivey’s solution is to launch “a program aimed at securing a high participation rate in the Census. Attorney General Steve Marshall has also sued to try to prevent the counting of undocumented immigrants in the Census, a move that could reduce the official level of growth in states like Texas, though it could also reduce the total count of people in Alabama.”

Alabama politicians want to manipulate the numbers rather than to improve them.

Alabama not well educated

Not only are we not increasing population—but as a state, we’re not well educated.

U.S. News and World Report ranked Alabama 50th in education.

But with a little bit of creativity, we could solve both our lack of education and growth.

What are others doing?

Maine offers student debt relief to graduates who live and work there

Students who graduate from college in Maine or from any other state, but live and work in Maine, can subtract their total student loan payments over the year from their state income tax liability. If a college graduate owes Maine $2,000 in state income taxes and pays $1,700 in student loans, the graduate would only owe the state $300.

It’s even better if the graduate has a science, technology, engineering or mathematics degree. The graduate could actually get a check from Maine if the amount paid for the student loan exceeds his or her state income tax liability for the year. If an engineer paid $2,000 in student loans and owes $1,500 in state income taxes, the graduate would receive $500 from the state.

Tennessee offers free community college for all adults

In 2014 Tennessee lawmakers passed legislation to make tuition and fees free for recent high school graduates to enroll in community college or technical schools. It was recently expanded to include any adult who doesn’t already have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

We want to send a clear message that wherever you fall on life’s path, you have the opportunity to earn an education beyond high school,” Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said. “By 2025, at least half the jobs in our state will require a college degree or certificate. Tennessee will lead in creating highly-skilled jobs if we make sure that Tennesseans are ready for those jobs…”

Tulsa pays remote workers to move there

Then there’s this creative idea from Tulsa.

“Looking to draw tech workers, creatives and other digital nomads, Tulsa, Oklahoma has created Tulsa Remote, a special program that offers $10,000 grants to eligible applicants who commit to living in the city for a year and working remotely.”

“Eligible workers receive access to additional benefits, including a co-working space that comes with complimentary snacks and beverages, as well as monthly meetups and workshops with fellow members and Tulsa entrepreneurs.”

Alabama low household income

It’s true that unemployment is low in Alabama, but according to USA Today, Alabama ranks 45th in average household income.

Where would Alabama get the money to fund these programs?

Our state has given tens of millions of dollars to companies to move here—we could invest those millions in ourselves.

Other cities and states invest in education for their citizens or to recruit educated workers while we in Alabama want to manipulate the numbers.

Alabama doesn’t have to be stagnant and poorly educated–all we need is a little bit of creative thinking.

Let’s turn Birmingham around. Click here to sign up for our newsletter. There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)

David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham.

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22 thoughts on “Alabama: Stagnant and poorly educated (3 creative ideas)”

  1. OTOH, keeping in mind that 20% of the states (10) actually declined in population, including NY and Illinois by almost 50k each.

    1. For many of the 20% losing population doesn’t change their status as top-tier states. But, for Alabama to lose population as an underdog is a kick in the shin while being down. This was a very well laid out article that posits some interesting ideas.

  2. The state of Vermont will give $10,000 to individuals who relocate to anywhere in the state, not just a city, to work remotely. Vermont is an incredibly beautiful state which is trying to encourage people to move there, thus increasing its educated population and population numbers.

  3. There is one place in Alabama that has been hard hit by the decline of the steel industry and manufacturing in general that has occurred over the last few decades. That is Birmingham. Cities in Pennsylvania, and eastern Ohio are shrinking fast. Birmingham has done well for a city and metro area that has a Rust Belt economy.

    Birmingham is further hamstrung by the fact that it is in a state with a broken criminal justice system, poor educational policy, and a tax system that favors the wealthy.

  4. Again we have to ask ourselves. Why is it necessary for us to bribe people to live in Alabama?

    1. Why is it necessary to bribe people to move to Vermont, a beautiful and mostly progressive state? There seems to be things people both love and hate about where they live and about to where they might consider moving. It is anyone’s guess about what drives individual’s likes and dislikes.

  5. David, you’re fighting the good fight and I admire and applaud your efforts – however in my opinion you’re in deep denial about the facts & truth.

    1) Right now, 5/14/19 at 10pm the headline on CNN is “Alabama Senate passes near-total abortion ban”.

    2) 17 months ago a guy with the character of Roy Moore got nearly half, 48.3% of the vote. That’s 72% of voting White men and 62% of voting White women saying “we don’t want change, no matter how despicable the track record of our leaders”. This vote is foundation and fact based evidence of how Alabama prefers yesterday and ‘backwards’ more so than tomorrow and going forward.

    I don’ t think you’ll willing to be honest with this truth, and how it serves as valid foundation for Birmingham to be an unattractive destination for many.

    1) and 2) reflect the culture of Alabama, the elephant in the room, and why Birmingham has little chance of having the next decade be much different than the last decade.

    I understand your desire and hope to believe in the “better angels” of your fellow Alabamians…..but respectfully, you have no reason to. Alabama is a ‘backwards’ State, that’s the way most people in power (White people) want and prefer it to be. I don’t think Birmingham is going to be able to rise above the culture of Alabama.

    I don’t mean to discourage you at all – but you’re a White male, and I often wonder if you have a ‘blind spot’ and are unable to see the ramifications of headlines like today on CNN to corporations, organizations considering having a convention in Birmingham, etc.

    Respectfully, I am of the belief that today’s CNN news about Alabama is far far far more damaging to Birmingham’s prospects of prosperity going forward than anything you’ve ever written.

    1. I have lived in Alabama for fifty years and am now retired. We have owned a Vermont home for nearly twenty years yet remain in Alabama. We do so because we believe, and always have, that Alabama has improved and will continue to improve. We have done our best to help effect change, both nationally and internationally, starting at our local Homewood community where I believe one can have the most impact. David, you are doing the same and many applaud you.

      1. A big Spring cleaning of the entire state of Alabama, including Birmingham could only advance the quality of live to make it more desireable. Consider what is helping Huntsville become a better and more attractive city. It is is no way a perfect city as the manner in which it grows endangers it, unless they engage excellent city planning, urban design, and architecture. Spreading out to widely is NOT good. We should not encourage growth only to raise revenue or just look bigger. Save more of the state’s natural beauty which is so good it is great for good health and good attitudes. Look for bringing in really good people not just anybodies! Keep up your good work, David Sher!

  6. This discussion is totally useless as long as you support a legislature that can put through such a brutal and illiterate bill against women as it just has. It certainly demonstrates the poor education in the state. But it also demonstrates a fundamental meanness which will not be overcome by paying people to move there.

    I had hopes that my home state was doing better. I am humiliated and disgusted.

  7. So am I, but there is still much about our state that I love. And that comes from a “damned Yankee”. Our best weapon is our vote, even if it seems meaningless sometimes.

  8. By investing in statewide Pre-K and requiring that students must be able to read and understand words and numbers before they can graduate from 3rd grade would dramatically enhance education and reduce drop outs and other social ills. And until we have more accountability in all school systems and school boards so that all students have access to a quality education we will continue to lag behind.

  9. Nothing in these very cogent responses address the issue of how different Alabama is than the rest of the country. Despite the popular vote, the electoral college still elected Donald Trump. How does that make Alabama significantly different from the rest of the country? I am in no way excusing Alabama for votes, such as the recent result of the abortion issue vote. Other states have passed similar, although not as dramatic votes.

  10. Think pragmatly not politically. ‘A man’s reach should be greater than his grasp, or what is a heaven for!’ This is paraphrasing an old idea. It still should work.

  11. For the entire face of the earth, abortion should just simply be taken completely out of the political theater, Democrat, Republican, and any other that might arise and in my view every country. It is not a governmental matter. I believe it is a personal matter that can and should be resolved by those who must decide for themselves. It may be based on religious belief, and in every case medical care should be applied. NOT POLITICS! purely and simply.

  12. I say again and again and again that you cannot allow any group to have a monopoly without receiving poor quality at high prices. Until we provide education vouchers to promote competition through free enterprise, don’t expect quality education.

  13. Good way of telling, and pleasant article to obtain information concerning my presentation subject, which i am going to convey in institution of higher education

    1. Well let all the young and bright move in and make Alabama a better state. I do NOT believe that bigger makes much of any thing better, it depends on what has made it bigger.

      There are these questions: Would things be better if education was the best in quality? Some of it is in the ‘best level’ category. Auburn has top ranked Philosophy Department, Business school and Architecture Program. and others as well, so does Alabama,.

      I have lived in Tennessee and Florida, both are thriving, and both have no, yes that is ZERO income tax. That helps those who wish to make some good money want to move in. Bright people as the kind we would want find that they only need to make a small amount of money and they have to pay the state.

      And what is behind Birmingham’s nasty sprawling lanscape that congesta traffic ( if you think it helps to add lanes it has been proven over and over that adding lanes is absolutely NOT the thing to do, More smaller roadways work better distributing traffic. not gathering. Sprawl ruins natural places, famr and forest land, etc. The city put on the ridiculous occupational taxes. That is a great way to push people and businesses out of the city! I will wate to get into how horrible and inconsiderate of human life ALDOT is. Yes they are concerned with safety but have have on the least idea about to make it.
      Home rule could help, so people who live in the places affected have more opportunity to make it as they would like to be.

      So My Dear ALABAMA, the if quite a lot of staunch stupidity flying around inside you. Catch it and put it right in to the garbage. You will like what happens after that is done.

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