Sunday, August 06, 2006

Birmingham City Schools...Not Good

This article looks at the poor condition of Birmingham's city schools and the exodus that the system has seen in favor of schools in the burbs. Some interesting quotes from the article:

...the migrating students take more than $30 million of state education funding with them.

In 1999, public schools in the metro Birmingham area were the eighth-most segregated among America's 50 largest metro regions...

Blacks now make up about 99 percent of the students in Birmingham city schools.

"It is my perception that only about 5 percent of the students that go...are really interested in school and are really doing the best they can do."

The article is interesting in that it is a mixture of factual numbers and personal interviews with people who have chosen either to move for better education or stay and push for improvement. It is difficult to ask people to stay in support of the city when their children's education is so important. Also, the article really does not address whether the formation of the surrounding school districts played a key role in bringing the city schools to the current place, or whether the new schools was merely a reaction to the steady decline. The cause-effect relationship between the two is likely difficult to discern.

I expect that some of the renovation and resurgence in the downtown of Birmingham will eventually begin to affect the school system as people who care strongly about the city's vitality are likely to play an increasing role in the city's politics. The political situation will change slowly. The school situation will only change with intentional and drastic measures.

The Bigger Picture
Taking another viewpoint of the entire story, the emphasis placed on education by the people in an area certainly affects the quality of that education. The reason that other school districts are doing better than the city schools is in part due to the community within which they find themselves. For the most part, the communities in which schools are thriving are also areas in which everything else appears to be thriving too. The areas where schools are struggling are those same areas where businesses are closing, crime is increasing, and houses are left empty rather than remodeled. Looking at the bigger picture, this is not merely a school problem to be addressed by the school board.

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