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Birmingham launches new initiative to combat chronic school absences among public housing residents


A new initiative is offering resources such as transportation to and from school and homework help to promote regular school attendance among Birmingham public housing households.

Every Day Counts offers resources and incentives to encourage the city’s public housing residents to send their children to school regularly. The program started after Birmingham City Schools (BSC) reported in October 2023 that nearly 25% of students are chronically absent.

“We had seen based on recent report cards from the schools that truancy was a great challenge within Birmingham City Schools,” said Meagan Holland, director of public relations for the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District (HABD). “We know that when students are not in school regularly, they miss a lot of the critical learning that they can if they are in school every day.”

Holland said these reports showed many of the schools having a high number of absences are the same schools that public housing is zoned for. She said she believes a lack of available resources to these families could be the root of the problem.

“I think some people often forget that families in public housing communities, the families who we serve, are extremely low to low-income households. So, that means that they're typically generating, on average, $14,000 a year for an entire household. So, they face challenges families who don't reside in public housing don't,” said Holland.

To help these families’ combat the challenges that come with sending a child to school, such as transportation, the program has partnerships lined up that can provide rides to and from school. Another resource is homework help for both students and adults offered, which is offered every day after school Monday through Friday.

Holland said she believes the most compelling aspect of Every Day Counts is the raffle that gives HABD households with perfect school attendance for the month a chance to win financial support that can go toward a housing expense.

“If you are a public housing resident, and every school-aged child within your household receives perfect attendance for that month, then you are entered into a random drawing to receive a financial incentive the following month. Then, it goes toward a monthly housing expense,” explained Holland.

Birmingham city leaders, along with Holland, say they value the importance of education and hope this new program will combat truancy in the Magic City.

“It's important to be in school regularly,” explained Holland. “If we're going to continue to develop well-rounded individuals who, once they are out of primary and secondary school, are strong and contributing members of the Alabama community and Birmingham.”

Every Day Counts is a collaboration between the City of Birmingham, BCS and the HABD. To find out more about the resources available, visit the HABD website or call (205) 324-0641.

Hannah Holcombe is a student intern at the Alabama Public Radio newsroom. She is a Sophomore at the University of Alabama and is studying news media. She has a love for plants, dogs and writing. She hopes to pursue a career as a reporter.
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