Some people don’t like or understand Mountain Brook

Old Mill in Mountain Brook
Old Mill in Mountain Brook

Mountain Brook is unique. I’m not sure there’s another community quite like it anywhere.

Mountain Brook is often called the ‘Tiny Kingdom’.

Its citizens are sometimes referred to as ‘Brookies’.

When I publish a piece about Mountain Brook I always disclose that I grew up and raised my children in Mountain Brook and am currently living in Vestavia Hills.

I cringe when I make that disclosure because I know some folks will instantly judge me.

When I was 12 years old my family moved from Birmingham to Mountain Brook and I started school at Crestline Elementary.

Some people painted Mountain Brook negatively then and they still do now.

So why do families choose to live in Mountain Brook?

Some people may feel that it’s some kind of racial thing—or class thing.

But it’s clearly an ‘educational’ thing.

Most families choose Mountain Brook because they want the very best education for their children.

I imagine that many Mountain Brook residents are Republicans and we all know how much Republicans hate taxes.

Mountain Brook property taxes are the highest in Jefferson County, but on September 24th Mountain Brook citizens will go to the polls to vote on whether to raise their property taxes even higher to support their school system and the referendum will likely pass by a landslide.

How do I know?

When it comes to education, Mountain Brook residents take great pride in their school system.

The last time Mountain Brook residents were asked to raise their property taxes was 1991 and the proposal passed with 90% of voters voting for the increase.

Then in 2010, 97% of Mountain Brook voters voted to approve a renewal of a 9.9 mill school property tax. It passed 2,042 to 71.

Alabama requires communities to fund a portion of their schools based upon local property values. Local dollars average 21% of a district’s budget in Alabama, but Mountain Brook contributes as much as 54%.

The City of Mountain Brook says it’s one of the top 20 school systems in the country and Mountain Brook Schools are consistently rated the best in the State.

It’s interesting to note that Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills have the highest property taxes in Jefferson County and their public schools are ranked #1 and #2 in the State.

Not only do Mountain Brook children get an excellent education. but their parents avoid the heavy burden of paying for private schools.

In addition a great school system creates demand for neighborhood schools and residents get top prices for their houses.

Homeowners recoup their investment in property taxes many times over.

I know Mountain Brook gets criticized because so few minorities live there.

But I find my Mountain Brook friends to open and accepting.

It’s interesting to note that Crestline Elementary School (the same Mountain Brook school I attended as a student) has an African-American principal.

Consider reading the article, Mountain Brook families find equality, controversy in Mountain Brook. It describes four black families whose sons once played together on the same AAU basketball team and their decision to move to Mountain Brook.

The piece said the students “endured racial slurs and taunts…but the ugliness (didn’t) come from people inside Mountain Brook, but from people outside the exclusive hamlet, from people in Birmingham who, according to the Mountain Brook families, view moving to Mountain Brook as tantamount to turning their backs on their race.”

According to the article the African-American families felt welcome in Mountain Brook. They said they chose Mountain Brook because they felt Mountain Brook schools would create the best opportunity for their children both athletically and academically.

One of those young students, Alex Washington, just started college this month at Harvard.

I received this e-mail from his dad, Chris Washington, earlier this month, in response to me asking how Alex is doing, “He is doing great! His classes officially began today and we are so proud. He is taking the same energy to learn that he had at Mountain Brook High School to Harvard, representing his family and the city of Birmingham as an African American student.”

Only so many people can afford to live in cities like Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Homewood, Hoover, and Trussville that have top school systems.

There are many communities around Birmingham that don’t have the resources of the wealthier cities, but we must find a way, just like Mountain Brook, to invest in education.

If we had great schools everywhere, including Birmingham, then our region would be unstoppable.

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 for free about a better Birmingham.

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4 thoughts on “Some people don’t like or understand Mountain Brook”

  1. Well, Mtn Brook and Vestavia residents can AFFORD higher taxes. In fact, they can afford to send their kids to private academies, but don’t because even with the “higher” local taxes they’re paying, they’re getting state funding (even when many Alabama schools are in a horrible state and cannot afford to amend the state subsidies). The State of Alabama funds all public schools systems at the same rate–per pupil. Localities are then free to add whatever they want in local moneys–in the case of Mountain Brook, a LOT. These are social and economic inequities perpetuated by our balkanized municipal structures, which are based on race and income. I thought the whole point of your blog was to promote unity in the metro area, but in this case that doesn’t seem to be the case.

    1. Greg, what you said is absolutely true. However, the reality is no one is going to give up their school system in my lifetime. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to work together as a region. I very much appreciate thoughtful comments like yours and I hope others will weigh in.

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