National best/worst rankings a mixed bag for Alabama

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As the state makes legislative changes to gear up to be more relevant in the national political scene ahead of 2016 elections, a recent spate of national reports point to uneven progress in Alabama’s public affairs.

To begin on a positive note, the inveterate rankers at Niche have given a nod of recognition to 11 of Alabama’s suburbs. Jefferson County in particular looked good in the recent rankings, as both Vestivia Hills — the No. 1 Alabama suburb overall — and Mountain Brook took home top honors. Madison, Pelham and Taylor rounded out the top five in terms of livability and quality nearby schools, the study’s top critera.

Speaking of schools, Alabama’s voluntary pre-kindergarten programs continue to score highly in national efficacy models. For the ninth time in the study’s history, the National Institute for Early Education Research named Alabama’s system No. 1 in the country, citing rigorous standards and delivery in its appraisal.

On the other hand, a recent study conducted by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index ranked the Yellowhammer State No. 6 in the nation in obesity rates, with only West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Mississippi rating more obese. Alabama’s rate of obesity — 32.1 percent of the population, according to the survey — is significantly greater than the national rate of 27.7 percent, indicating that the condition is a lingering public health problem in the state.

In terms of its political profile, Alabama is commonly thought to be a bastion of Tea Party activism, wherein hard-right tendencies often carry the day. But according to an analysis by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, 21 other states, including neighboring Florida, rank higher than Alabama, which rings in at 22nd on the list overall.

Mega-states like Texas and the aforementioned Sunshine State far outpaced Alabama according to the study, which said about 7,153 Tea Partiers in 14 active chapters make up the state’s “Taxed Enough Already” constituency, good for just better than middle of the pack nationally, despite the conventional wisdom.

As Alabama continues to grow in national muscle, expect a good deal more comparing and contrasting to come.

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