Educational Disparities, Disengaged Electorate

September 6, 2013

For Birmingham City Schools, class started on August 19th. The summer was over and a more consistent routine had begun. A week into school, on Tuesday, August 27th, many of these students had survived their first pop quiz in math, they were several chapters into their history textbooks, and they were thinking about Labor Day and their first break from this routine. August 27th passed with little fanfare. Many were unaware of the impact the day’s events would have on their education.
 
This day was municipal election day. The mayoral race, city council races and perhaps most importantly for these students, school board races. And in spite of the importance of this day, only 21 percent of voters showed up to the polls.
 
Birmingham City Schools have had a turbulent year. Last summer, the state took over because of a dysfunctional Board and because the system was on the brink of financial ruin. And now Birmingham City Schools’ accreditation has been put on probation. Losing this accreditation would negatively impact students who graduate from these schools, especially those who want to move on to higher education. It could also mean that students who are able will leave the school system, which will result in a loss of state funding and community support. Now more than ever, Birmingham City Schools needs a board that can provide leadership, help maintain the school system’s accreditation, and get schools on track. 
 
This is important to us at the YW because one of our public policy priorities is educational disparities in Greater Birmingham. Many of the students who are in our shelters or are a part of our After-School Enrichment Program attend Birmingham City Schools. It is their education and their future on the line.
 
On August 27th, voters ousted three incumbent school board members. And on October 8th, there will be a run off for districts 1, 4 and 6. If you do not know your district, you can visit the City of Birmingham’s website. It is also vital that after elections are over Birmingham residents stay engaged with what’s happening with the Birmingham Board of Education by attending meetings and making their voices heard. 
 
Education is a priority at all levels of government. Know your elected officials on a national and state level. Stay engaged locally with your mayor and city council. And while you may have missed elections for this year, it’s not too late for 2014. Visit Alabama Votes to register to vote or find your polling place for the next election. In 2014, elections will be held for state and federal offices, including members of the Alabama State Board of Education for several districts. For residents of Bessemer and Mountain Brook and other cities across the state, municipal elections like Birmingham’s will be held.
 
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