Alabama Grandmother Runs For Education

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- A 56-year-old grandmother of 14 said she's had enough of budget cuts that have slashed funding for public education in Alabama.

Lori Tippets, a member of the city school board in Jacksonville, started running last week in an effort to increase public awareness about the impact of education funding cuts Alabama. She plans to run 6.2 miles, or 10 kilometers, in 30 cities throughout the state for 30 days.

On Tuesday, she arrived in Tuscaloosa. She's already run in five other cities: Anniston, Heflin, Piedmont, Orange Beach and Mobile.

"In May, I was sitting in a school board meeting and we were talking about the budget," Tippets said. "We were already at bare bones and we had to lose about 11 teacher units because of the loss of federal stimulus money. And we've had to do away with a lot of our instructional aides and arts and language programs because of proration, across-the-board budget cuts required when state appropriations exceed revenue generated.

"After 11 years on the board, this is the worst I've seen it. I just said, `Enough is enough,' and decided to take some action. I decided to run. Maybe if people see a grandma running across Alabama for education, they'll take notice."

Tippets said she ran between three and five miles daily before she started the campaign.

"I wanted to do a 10K run because that's a stretch for me to run in a day," she said. "I want people to see that sometimes you have to go outside your comfort zone to achieve results."

Tippets said she hopes her run across Alabama inspires people all over the state to go to their local school boards and government officials and demand that they make education their city's top priority.

Public school boards in Alabama receive most of their funding from the state and federal governments, but Tippets said she believes local government can make a big impact. She said local governments can create local funding sources and earmark funding for education.

Dan Meissner, chairman of the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education, said he thinks what Tippets is doing will bring more awareness to long-term funding issues surrounding education in Alabama.

"What she's doing goes beyond the proration of today and the budget cuts of tomorrow to help us focus on the need for a stable funding base for our schools," Meissner said. "I think everything (starts) with local. Stable funding comes from the grass roots up."

Tippets said school board members, school administrators and teachers across the state have applauded her efforts.
She said the effort has given her a great sense of accomplishment.

"I have one 4-year-old grandson and one 5-year-old grandson who hold up signs while I'm running saying, `You're an animal, grandma,"' she said, laughing.

"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something."