Mtn. Brook & Vestavia don’t have to give up their schools for a better Birmingham

Mountain Brook Board of Education
Mountain Brook Board of Education

Fewer people are employed in our Birmingham-Hoover Metro Area today than in 2007.

Meanwhile cities like Nashville, Charlotte, and Austin are growing jobs exponentially.

What is wrong with us?  Why can’t we compete?

We have too many independent governments competing against one another.  Other Southern cities work together as a region while we view our sister Jefferson County cities as the enemy.

Fear of losing our suburban schools is holding us back

My guess is that many people are afraid that if we alter our government structure we would have to give up our suburban schools.

I’m not a proponent of a unified school system.

If folks thought there was the slightest chance we would lose our neighborhood schools all progress in Birmingham would end.

Currently there are twelve separate school systems in Jefferson County:

And Gardendale is the midst of a lawsuit to create an additional school system.

It’s not realistic to assume that parents are going to allow these systems to go away.

Unified schools don’t work

A unified school system would be a disaster.

Memphis’ attempt to combine county and city schools recently was a train wreck.

Many of us envy the economic growth of Nashville, but we certainly don’t want their school system.

The good news for Birmingham is that there are only about 25,000 students in Birmingham City Schools

There are about 86,000 students in the underperforming Nashville Public Schools.

And there are 128,000 students in poorly performing Duval County (Jacksonville, Florida) Public Schools.

The School Systems in the City of Birmingham, Nashville, and Jacksonville are rated about the same.

If we were to eliminate suburban schools, parents who had the financial means, would move their children into private schools and educational opportunities of the remaining students would diminish.

Government options that would not impact suburban schools

Here are examples of cities who are flourishing with diverse government structures:

  • Indianapolis combined county and city into one government, but schools were not consolidated.
  • Charlotte did a functional consolidation—County and City government divided its responsibilities to avoid duplication of services (one fire department; one police department, etc.).
  • Pittsburgh opted for a strong county government—it created an Executive Branch with a County Mayor (we in Jefferson County don’t have three branches of government–a system that is prone to abuse and has led to the conviction of many of our County Commissioners).  Read How we in Jefferson County got screwed.
  • Denver created broad geographical regions to tackle big projects like transportation and green space.

None of the above require meddling with schools.

Birmingham—the city of perpetual promise

Birmingham is called the city of ‘perpetual promise.’

Let’s find a reasonable solution that doesn’t involve emasculating our schools and build a region that will propel us into the 21st Century.

Let’s turn Birmingham around.  Click here to sign up for our newsletter. There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)

David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham.

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13 thoughts on “Mtn. Brook & Vestavia don’t have to give up their schools for a better Birmingham”

  1. David, I constantly read your suggestions about a unified metro government and I am 100% on board with the idea. However, just writing short articles about it is not going to get anything done. If you are serious about this happening, then YOU should put together a team of professionals and write up a detailed plan, constitutional amendments, legislation, or whatever else it takes. This plan needs to go in depth in how things would be restructured, who would have what power, and how it would go into effect. Then go hand this to our representatives for different cities and get them on board. The reality is that our elected officials are not going to take initiative on something like this. We have to.

    1. So glad to hear “the wheels are turning” David. Please let me know if a retired “Old Goat” can be of assistance!

  2. All great points. Thank you for the piece. But we are still waiting for you point out the number one reason why there are fewer jobs in the metro compared to 2007. You know it, I know it, anyone who gives a damn about Birmingham knows it. The Birmingham Business Alliance is a weak, pathetic organization that has the third highest paid non-profit dictator in the state, while it stands idly creating ZERO jobs in Birmingham.

    When will you point out that since Brian Hilson – the lifelong Huntsville transplant – became CEO of the BBA, that Birmingham has lagged behind every other southeastern city in terms of job creation? When will you interview Brian Hilson and ask him where the BBA’s incredibly bloated budget goes? When will you ask him what return the city of Birmingham receives on its substantial annual investment in the BBA? When will you ask him why company after company, startup after startup, entrepreneur after entrepreneur all cite a lack of support from the BBA, a lack of desire from the BBA to attract and retain businesses, and a lack of even a shred of a backbone from the BBA?

    When will you ask him why the BBA did NOTHING to support ride-sharing in Birmingham? When will you ask him why they immediately denounced the killing of UAB football only to reverse stance 2 days later, anoint Watts Chairman less than a week later, and now a second time? When will you ask him why this line of text of on the BBA website, when it is 100% false – “The Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) works tirelessly on regional cooperation between our elected leaders and business leaders to move this region forward.” When will you ask him to be accountable for the farcical 5-year, 10-year plans, blueprints, et al and show how many milestones and goals the BBA actually missed? Hint: Almost all of them.

    In fact Mr. Sher, you at one point in time started to truly become the voice we need and call out the BBA for its pathetic silence regarding ANY issue on which the business community could actually make this a world class city. In this very column in 2013, you wondered why the BBA refused to take a stand against ALDOT and its shortsighted 20/59 plan:

    “And you may be wondering why a poll by the BBJ shows 85% of business people against the development, and yet the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) remains silent?” – David Sher

    The fact is that the Birmingham Business Alliance and Brian Hilson are as guilty or more guilty than any other entity in holdign Birmingham back. Yes the Birmingham city leadership is wretched. Yes the state hates Birmingham. Yes, there needs to be more regional cooperation. But almost none of that would matter if the business community gave a damn about Birmingham and put even a fraction of its weight behind truly worthwhile initiatives. We have non-profits relying on peanuts from individuals creating more jobs, transforming more city blocks and turning more hollow buildings into revenue generating businesses in 1 year than the BBA does in 5.

    Why don’t you truly do the region a service and dig a little deeper into the questions you began to ask on July 23, 2013? Instead of telling us how we need regional cooperation, tell us HOW LITTLE THE BIRMINGHAM BUSINESS ALLIANCE has done to promote regional cooperation, to create jobs, and to improve the city.

  3. “What is wrong with us,” you ask? Let me suggest an answer: complaining rather than taking action. You know, cursing the darkness instead of lighting a candle. I’m glad to hear that something is supposedly going on behind the scenes on metro government. But I wonder: why is the positive action going on behind the scenes, and the complaining about it going on in public, in this blog? Why not use the blog to positively motivate for change, instead of generating negativity towards what is existing? Metro government is a potentially good thing for the region, so if you’re working on that, why don’t you tell us what you are doing and try to get us all to help? Trying to get us all to agree that there is a problem, and collectively complain about it, is really not necessary. And not good for the community’s self-image. We should spend time and energy on opportunities for improvement, not on complaining about what’s wrong.

  4. David,
    I’m a big fan of your blog. My family no longer lives in Birmingham, so your blog helps me stay informed with whats going on at home. Quick question: Why is Birmingham constantly compared to Nashville, Austin, Charlotte, and Atlanta? These are major national markets. I feel Birmingham, from a regional and population perspective, is more comparable to Memphis, Jacksonville, New Orleans, and Louisville. Let me know what you think. Thanks and keep up the good work.

    1. Stuart, that is a great question and one I get asked regularly by young people. When I was growing up in the ’50’s Birmingham and Atlanta were about the same size. Birmingham was a good bit larger than Nashville, Charlotte and Austin. You are correct, those cities have passed us by. But things are beginning to turn around for Birmingham. I think we will soon start to make progress on government cooperation and structure and we will be competitive again. Thank you so much for your positive comments.

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