Michigan’s first official 2011-12 student count day brought good news to Dearborn Public Schools officials Wednesday when earlier predicted student enrollment increases were verified.
Unofficial count numbers indicate that the district is educating at least 18,614 students, which is a significant change from the 18,500 enrolled in classes last year, according to the district. However, the district’s enrollment is 18,993 students–which means a boost of 493 students and a potential per-pupil funding windfall of $4.1 million.
“What we’re going to be looking at is the enrollment numbers versus the count–we need to see if the difference in those numbers is because of absenteeism or whether the students are gone,” said schools spokesman David Mustonen.
The district’s per-pupil foundation grant is $8,348.
For Oct. 5, the district logged a 2 percent rate of absenteeism. The district has 10 days to verify if those students were actually absent or no longer attending a Dearborn Public Schools, and the verified count will be submitted to the State of Michigan. The $4.1 million in additional monies will depend on whether the enrollment data holds up–but Mustonen said there’s no reason to believe the final number would be vastly different.
Though district officials are pleased to see a boost in enrollment, it did fall short of its 19,000 enrollment mark. But the good news is that no matter what the final count is, the baseline headcount indicated an increase, not a decrease.
“Once we are able to verify the numbers we will have a more accurate picture and be able to determine if we are 100 students over projection or closer to 400 over,” said Ron Gutkowski, the assistant superintendent for Student Services, in a statement.
Because of the state’s mechanism for funding public schools, enrollment is a key part of a district’s ability to remain in the black. In Dearborn, enrollment has typically seen increases overall. According to data provided by the schools, the district saw enrollment levels at 12,287 students–and all-time low–in 1986. Since then, the numbers have steadily inched upward.
This year, another aspect is playing into how schools are funded. Because funding is based on a formula derived from October and February counts, the weight of the first count will take on additional importance, Mustonen said.
In the past, the blended count was determined using 75 percent of the October count, and 25 percent from the February count. This year, that formula shifts to a 90 percent/10 percent configuration.
“For us, the count in October is higher, so I think it will be a good thing for us,” he said. “So, we’re going to wait for that February count to see how much we will benefit from the change.”
Schools officials say potential reasons for the increases in enrollment, at a time when other districts are experiencing a decrease in students, include all-day kindergarten, educational programs at all grade levels, new offerings such as foreign language in the elementary grades, and the amount of affordable homes within the district’s borders.