• Education

    3rd Graders at Risk of Being Held Back for Poor Reading Skills; Local Schools Where That’s More and Less Likely

    More than one-fifth of Alabama’s third graders last spring failed to pass a standardized reading test.

    In more than 50 schools across the state, 50% or more of the students ended third grade without necessary reading skills needed by that age, according to the test results released recently by the state.

    Seven of those schools are in the Birmingham City School system. The Tarrant School System as a whole also fell below the halfway mark, and the Fairfield system barely topped 50%.

    This is the first school year that third graders who do not read at grade level by the end of the school year must be held back in that grade, rather than passed on to fourth grade, except under certain conditions. Read more and find schools’ scores.

  • Jefferson County Commission

    Commissioners Considering How to Fix Spotty Emergency Medical Service Across the County

    The Jefferson County Commission was told during its committee meeting Tuesday that it needs to declare a public health and safety emergency when it comes to emergency medical service in the county.

    Todd Sheridan is a senior associate with Fitch and Associates, the firm hired to research issues in ambulance response times in Jefferson County. His report today laid out a picture in which some parts of the metro area could have multiple ambulance services responding to a call while others could have none.

    And some of those who do get responses may have to wait as long as 4½ hours.

    At least 15 first responders circled the room where commissioners met to hear Sheridan discuss four options for the commission. Read more.

  • Economy

    Kids Count: Alabama 46th in Child Well-Being

    Alabama leads the nation in graduating high school students on time, but middle school students’ math and reading scores are near last in the country, according to a new report.

    Alabama ranked 46th in the nation in overall child well-being, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2022 Kids Count Data Book released today. That ranking is up from 47th in 2021.

    The annual report looks at 16 indicators of child well-being related to education, health care, economic factors and community and family. Data points come from 2016 through 2020.

    Alabama did improve in 10 of the indicators but in four of them the state fell behind the rest of the nation, according to a written statement today. Read more.

  • Birmingham City Council

    City Commits $13 Million to Public Spaces, Road and Drainage Work in Neighborhoods

    The Birmingham City Council approved more than $13 million in capital project funding Tuesday, focusing most prominently on streetscaping and improvements on city-owned properties such as Vulcan Park and Rickwood Field.

    Several city councilors expressed relief about the funding, saying that it would put to rest major complaints they have received from their constituents.

    “Thank you on behalf of the Pine Knoll Vista neighborhood,” District 4 Councilor J.T. Moore told Mayor Randall Woodfin, referencing the $815,000 that will be allocated to drainage improvements in that neighborhood. “That neighborhood has really been on my head about it. I can go to neighborhood association meetings and not sweat because we’re actually making moves on this project.” District 9 Councilor LaTonya Tate echoed that gratitude over $598,615 in funding for drainage improvements in Hooper City, saying she had stepped into a “lion’s den” of complaints upon becoming councilor.

    Mayor Randall Woodfin acknowledged that not every district’s needs could be fully met by this round of allocations, but he added that a meeting has been set with the finance team and the city’s bond counsel to “go deep” on potential market-based sources of funding. Read more.

  • Jefferson County Commission

    Move to Up Anti-Bingo Efforts in JeffCo Squelched as Questions About Proposal Still Unanswered

    Jimmie Stephens had hoped to leave Thursday’s meeting of the Jefferson County Commission with the county fully armed in its efforts to squelch illegal bingo in unincorporated Jefferson County.

    Instead, the commission president left the meeting disappointed after the resolution failed on a 2-2 vote.

    As in Tuesday’s committee meeting of the commission, Stephens would not discuss specifics of how the resolution would help the county crack down on bingo operations.

    The resolution states only: “Therefore, be it resolved by the Jefferson County Commission that the resolution directing the County Attorney to pursue and initiate all legal actions.”

    Stephens said the resolution called for no new ordinances to have been passed today. “It was the enforcement of the existing ordinances to be uniform and the enforcement of all of our zoning ordinances,” Stephens said after the meeting. Read more.

  • Jefferson County Commission

    JeffCo Commission Indicates It Will Look for Alternate Absentee Voting Space After Clerk Alleges Voter Suppression

    Bessemer Absentee Voting Clerk Karen Dunn Burks had a hug for every member of the Jefferson County Commission present after the panel settled on a resolution to a contentious disagreement over where absentee voting will take place in Bessemer.

    During its meeting Tuesday at the Bessemer Justice Center, commissioners moved to Thursday’s meeting agenda a plan for absentee voting to continue in the ceremonial courtroom in the basement of the justice center while the offices of the county manager and general services explore the possibility of moving the office to the second floor.

    Burks last week accused Jefferson County government of voter suppression because of plans to move her office from the courtroom basement to another office also in the basement. She contended the plan created unfair conditions and accommodations for voters and was inhumane.

    After Tuesday’s meeting, Burks said, “I feel very hopeful. I feel very good. Read more.