Teachers urge students to show up on Count Day
Prizes for the weirdest hat, dining with mom and dad in school and pizza parties — all are waiting for students who show up for school Wednesday.
These are just some of the lures and rewards school districts across Michigan plan to use to encourage students to attend school on Count Day.
High attendance is crucial for districts because enrollment determines the amount of per-pupil funding the state provides.
Enrollment levels are a blend of two student count days — one on the first Wednesday of October, which accounts for 90 percent of funding, and the other on the second Wednesday in February, which counts for 10 percent.
In Oakland County, the Pontiac Public Schools District is expected to receive $7,130 per pupil for 2014-15, while Bloomfield Hills should receive $11,934 per pupil. Detroit Public Schools is expected to get $7,296 per pupil in 2014-15. The loss of 100 students could equal a funding loss of more than $700,000, which translates into several paid staff positions, according to Michigan Department of Education spokesman Bill DiSessa.
Districts battling declining enrollment and budget deficits are especially aware of the day's importance. Still, not all offer students incentives to attend.
DPS parents will dine with their children.
"Our office of nutrition will again create a healthy meal with some specialty items for this special occasion," district spokesman Steve Wasko said.
Students at DPS' Durfee Elementary-Middle School can select books to borrow from the new media center being unveiled that day, while in Oakland County, Pontiac Middle School students and staff are encouraged to wear a goofy hat. The winner of the weirdest hat award will receive two movie passes to an AMC theater.
Another Pontiac school, Alcott Elementary, will have prize drawings throughout the day, and the sixth-grade class will go on a future field trip to an adventure/team building park.
"Classrooms with 100 percent attendance will be treated to a pizza party," district spokeswoman Lara Stump said.
Warren Consolidated Schools Superintendent Robert Livernois said the system's enrollment fell 150 students from 2013-14. The district projected in June it would have 15,086 students and Livernois projects they're close to that.
"Given the dramatic lack of funding support for community-governed public schools, enrollment equals revenue, which is what will help the district eliminate the deficit," he said.
Livernois said that over the past several years, the Warren schools lost more than $20 million in state per-pupil aid, which "required the district to carefully use the money in its savings account to maintain programs and services for students."
Livernois said the district implemented employee concessions, restructured programs and services for students, and "sought efficiencies where possible throughout the district."
The Warren schools went from a budget surplus in June 2013 to a projected $4.8 million deficit in June 2014, according to a state report issued this month. But Livernois said the district is making progress toward eliminating the red ink.
"In fact, our estimated deficit from June 2014 has already improved by $2.6 million, and we are currently addressing the remaining deficit this year," he said.
Livernois also said the district won't offer incentives encouraging students to attend school Wednesday.
The Ferndale Public School District estimates its Count Day enrollment should be around 3,000 students, close to what it projected three months ago.
"Every school district is setting a budget in June but will not know what their funding is until Count Day," Superintendent Blake Prewitt said.
He said it's the equivalent of buying a house in June but not knowing what one can afford until October.
"That being said, Ferndale should be on solid footing with our finances," he said. "We have a fund equity."
Prewitt said the district will not be sponsoring special Count Day activities.
A good turnout Wednesday is especially critical for Detroit Public Schools.
The state's largest district is among those that began fiscal year 2014 with a deficit and was projected to end with a bigger shortfall. According to the state's report, DPS' deficit grew from $93.8 million in June 2013 to $127 million a year later.
DPS has struggled with declining enrollment and projected in June that it would have 47,750 students this fall, down from 49,011 last year. Wasko said the district has begun the school year with "strong attendance," though he would not provide figures.