2016 Tuscaloosa Education Summit

Tuscaloosa’s annual Education Summit, organized by the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, was held on Wednesday, June 8th at the Bryant Conference Center at the University of Alabama.

The summit, titled “Chamber in Session: State of Education,” focused on local education and the performance of the Tuscaloosa City and County Schools.

PARCA kicked off the morning with a presentation of funding and school performance data for both school systems. The data tables are available here and the full presentation can be viewed by clicking the image below.


PARCA Talks State Budget

With the passage of the state’s general fund budget last week, PARCA Senior Research Associate Tom Spencer took a moment to sit down with WBHM’s Andrew Yeager to provide an overview of the budget and how some of the key departments will be affected.

“Medicaid, prisons, and education had strategic plans in place,” said Spencer. He says that allows lawmakers to make budgeting decisions for those parts of state government within an existing framework. That kind of planning doesn’t happen with other general fund agencies. With cuts to many agencies starting at 6 percent and no strategic plans in place, it’s hard to know the effects it will have on those agencies.

“We spent a lot of time [in the special session] with proposals coming from left and right about what to close and what to eliminate,” said Spencer. “They weren’t really based, in a lot of cases, on good solid information or well-thought-out plans.”

PARCA has recommended for years that the state adopt a system called performance-based budgeting. Performance based budgeting differs from other budgeting methods by focusing on policy goals and results rather than money spent.

“Figure out where you are, set a goal of where you want to go, identify the strategies that will get you to where you want to go, show what kind of investments need to be made, and pursue that. Measure your results, discard things that aren’t working and adopt different strategies,” Spencer said.

“State and local taxes are the lowest per capita in the United States of America. We have to run more efficiently than anybody else if we want to provide the same level of services. If we’re not asking tough questions and paying close attention to the bottom line, we’re not going to get good results.”

 Click here to listen to the full interview.




PARCA Director Jim Williams Retires, Search for New Director Begins

Jim Williams, who has served as PARCA’s executive director since its founding, plans to step down from that position later this year after 27 years of dedicated service. PARCA’s Board of Directors has begun a search for a successor.

 
Williams’ career in public policy research has spanned 43 years. He was recruited by Governor Albert Brewer and Dr. Tom Corts in 1988 to lead PARCA.  Throughout his tenure, Williams has been the cornerstone of the organization’s unmatched reputation for providing objective information and advocating for efficient, effective, transparent and accountable Alabama government.

“We like to think of ourselves as a good government think tank. We provide research that people and political leaders can use to improve public policy and government operations,” Williams said.

While at PARCA, Williams has guided such initiatives as the Alabama SMART Budgeting program and Alabama Student Test Score Analyses. PARCA regularly publishes research on taxes and spending, on state, county and local governments and on public school finances and operations. The staff has won eight national awards given by the Governmental Research Association for research quality.

In 2008, Williams was named as one of the “40 Most Influential Non-Elected Alabamians” in Thicket Magazine, asserting that he “has become one of the most influential policy people in the state. He has the ear of many in Alabama.”

With the announcement of Williams' retirement, the search has begun for PARCA's new Executive Director.

McKinney Capital is supporting PARCA by providing a Talent Acquisition team to guide PARCA's search for a new executive director.  The job posting can be viewed here. The search committee is focused on finding someone with the leadership skills and track record of impact to advance PARCA’s mission of improving government for the people of Alabama.