Category: Birmingham City Schools
Mayor Randall Woodfin defended his plan for Birmingham’s education budget at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, arguing that shifting millions of dollars from city schools to his proposed Birmingham Promise Initiative would allow the city to invest directly in students.
Woodfin’s proposed FY 2020 operating budget would cut the city’s funding for Birmingham City Schools from $3.2 million to $1 million. It would place that $2 million into a fund for the Birmingham Promise Education Initiative, a public-private partnership that would provide juniors and seniors in Birmingham city schools with paid apprenticeships as well as dual enrollment opportunities with Lawson State and Jefferson State community colleges. The program also would offer scholarships for city school graduates to attend public colleges and universities in Alabama.
Woodfin’s proposed cut to the schools’ budget has gotten mixed reviews. The city board of education in a letter to the mayor and council expressed support for the program but asked that the $2 million cut be reconsidered in the future.
Some council members today expressed support for the program and said it would be a benefit to Birmingham’s students; others were wary and said they needed details about the plan before being asked to vote on it. Read more.
The Birmingham Board of Education has some hiring to do, particularly at one elementary school. Thirty percent of the educators at Avondale Elementary from last year will not be returning. Teachers and parents say the environment at the school was chaotic last year, and they worry about safety and communication. It’s also leading some parents to consider other education options for their children.
Morgan Richardson was president of the Avondale PTA, but this year, she says her children will attend private school.
She says she is an advocate for public education, but she has concerns about Avondale.
Birmingham City Schools have a lot of competition for students, as reflected in enrollment decline and in the private, parochial, charter and other alternative schools that serve the Birmingham community.
Students in the city have many options, depending on religious affiliation, or ability to pay, or talent, or simply availability and choice.
That competition does not go unnoticed and it does have an impact, Dr. Lisa Herring, superintendent of the Birmingham City Schools, said in a recent interview. But she did not grant competition from alternative schools an outsized share of responsibility for enrollment declines in the city schools.
She said talking about competition for Birmingham students also means considering other factors important to student success.
“We always want to strive to be the very best,” she said. “We know that there’s accountability in that. And I believe that’s important, not just for our students but for our teachers, principals, parents and all. But we just want what’s best for our children. … So, if we talk about competition, we have to talk about care. If we say competition, we have to talk about competency.”
Having looked at BCS enrollment over the past 10 years, she said, “There has been slight decline, not extreme, but certainly slight in that there’s some decline each year with one exception … . There was one year when we had an increase.”
The increase was in the 2015-2016 school year, when BCS had 24,010 students in K-12, according to the Alabama State Department of Education website, up from 23,963 the year before. Otherwise Birmingham schools have had gradual declines most of the past decade, with the end result of a nearly 5,000 student decrease. In 2008-2009, the school system had 27,218 enrolled in K-12, according to the state department information. In the 2018-2019 school year, it had 22,246. The ALSDE website includes enrollment back to 1995-1996, when BCS had 39,545 students in K-12.
Pre-K numbers dropped over the decade, from 2,109 in 2008-2009 to 1,938 in 2018-2019. Pre-K enrollment peaked in 2013-2014 with 2,331 students. Going back to ‘95-‘96, there were 3,192 students in pre-K.
Declining enrollment, Herring said, is not all about students leaving for alternatives. “That’s tied to not just having school opportunities and school choice, but also a highly transient community. But to answer your question specifically, it makes us want to stay focused on making our schools a first choice based on offerings, and it’s based on performance.” Read more.
Navigate Affordable Housing Partners, a housing and community development nonprofit organization, has donated $50,000 to Washington K-8 School as part of its work in the North Titusville neighborhood.
“Any development community effort is only successful it you have schools. Strong schools make for strong communities and strong communities have healthy families,” Lisa McCarroll, CEO of the group, said while presenting the donation during a Birmingham Board of Education board meeting June 11. Read more.
When Dr. Terrell Brown took over as principal at Birmingham City’s Minor Elementary School, the school had a failing “F” grade. By the time he left three years later, Minor had improved to a “C.”
Over at W.E. Putnam Middle School, where Brown is now, the goal is to do a repeat.
Brown is taking his best practices from Minor and his time at Midfield City Schools and is applying them to his efforts to turn Putnam around from its “F” report card grade and five-time appearance on the AAA failing schools list. Read more.
The quality of education in Birmingham city schools varies across the city. Some schools, such as Phillips Academy, are rated “A” by the state Department of Education, while the report cards for other schools are not as promising.
Read profiles of some of Birmingham’s lower and highest performing schools.
Education Report Card 2017-2018: A (92)
Failing Schools List: None
Education Report Card 2017-2018: D (64)
Failing Schools List: 2019; 2018; 2017.
Education Report Card 2017-2018: F (51)
Failing Schools List: 2019; 2018; 2017; 2016; 2015; 2014.
Education Report Card 2017-2018: F (58)
Failing Schools List: 2019; 2016; 2015; 2014; 2013