Recently, members of the Birmingham Board of Education approved a resolution petitioning the Jefferson County Commission for a special election to consider a 3 mill property tax increase.Posted by Craig Witherspoon, Ed.D. on 5/23/2014Recently, members of the Birmingham Board of Education approved a resolution petitioning the Jefferson County Commission for a special election to consider a 3 mill property tax increase. This comes at a time when our system has demonstrated tremendous fiscal accountability, responsible stewardship and efficient allocation and use of existing resources. In concert, these actions have led to significant progress toward increased academic achievement, and attainment of goals as outlined in the district’s strategic plan. But there is so much left to do, and here is how we would like to focus additional revenue.Pre-K programming is vital. A strong academic foundation upon which students build their academic careers is one of the most important pre-cursors to academic, and subsequently, life success. Within the past few years, BCS has grown to 19 Pre-K classrooms system-wide, serving more than 400 4-year old students. But that’s not enough. However, in the absence of state support through the foundation program, we’ve had to largely fund this effort. Additional tax revenue would provide financial support where it does not exist currently, and would certainly allow us to establish even more Pre-K classrooms to give our children the start they deserve.At the middle school level, fine arts and foreign language are two critical areas that have suffered due to decreased funding. The arts enable students to build self-esteem and self-discipline, to work cooperatively within groups and to effectively express themselves. Foreign language has been shown to increase critical thinking skills, creativity and develop respect, understanding and appreciation for other cultures. Both fine arts and foreign language integrated into other subject areas improve academic achievement, encourage attendance, increase test scores, promote involvement and encourage disciplined behavior. In this area, tax revenue help us to expand opportunities for our students that can help shape their view of the world, provide valuable and marketable skills in a global society, and develop alternative modes for self-expression.At the high school level, funding would be allocated to grow and expand our Career Academies program into Wall-to-Wall academies in all high schools. Wall-to-wall academies provide a learning environment that helps students connect core academics to business and industry through authentic learning experiences. This transformational model creates smaller learning communities – a school within a school-- where students with similar interest are grouped, or cohorted, and work together through the same academic curriculum. Students are led by teachers and staff who are highly trained in this model and committed to their success. In addition, students would be able to take full advantage of the local resources and opportunities as they chart a path forward in life. As a result, our graduates will be well prepared for both college and career.At Birmingham City Schools, we are proud of the progress the system is making and we are encouraged by the promise and impact that this improvement has on the individual lives of each of the more than 24,500 students that we serve each day. We are maximizing the resources that we have, but know that there is more that can be done for our students with your support of this proposal as we Believe. Create. Succeed.Craig Witherspoon, Ed.D.