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Possible changes on the way for student count day

Possible changes on the way for student count day

The clock is ticking for school districts to have budget plans in place for next school year. But there's a proposal on the table from the Governor to change the count day formula, and some northern Michigan districts say the change would be bad for them.

Right now, the money that districts get from the state is based on how many students a district has enrolled. To figure out what that number is, the schools hold count days, once in the fall and again in the spring. Currently, fall is worth 90 percent and the spring is worth 10 percent.

Districts found out back in February that Governor Rick Snyder was proposing to change the formula to make both spring and fall count days worth 50 percent each.

"The intent of that 50/50 spring to fall count was to help with declining enrollment," said Traverse City Area Public Schools Superintendent, Paul Soma.

But Soma says Snyder's proposal won't help with declining enrollment in many northern Michigan schools.

"When you take an average of prior year spring and next year's fall, the problem with that is that spring count is always low," said Soma.

It's something that could hurt the budget for both TCAPS and Suttons Bay Public Schools, according to both superintendents.

Both districts see less students in the spring due to early graduation and migrant workers.

"We have such a high number of migrant students that are here in the fall but then leave, they go down south for that winter/spring count," said Chris Nelson, Superintendent of Suttons Bay Public Schools.

Both districts get around $7,000 per student Soma says the difference between this spring count to next fall under the potential new formula would be about 70 TCAPS students.

"So 70 students times $7,000, you're talking about half a million dollars that's riding on this," said Soma.

That why he's spearheading a plan to eliminate the spring count and put more emphasis on the fall.

"50 percent of the fall and 50 percent of the next fall to be the manner in which we count students," said Soma. "That would enable some certainty around it. It would be an apples to apples comparison and it would mitigate some of the problem with declining enrollment."

Nelson says the idea is creative but he'd rather see the state do away with per pupil funding all together.

"As these students move around that money follows the students and so to me the heart and soul of the problem is with that, that the funding is actually tied to students as opposed to tied to the geographic area or the region or the district itself," said Nelson. "There are so many other funding options that the state could deploy to make sure that the equity between school districts is more even and equal."

Soma says the Northern Michigan School Legislators is behind his plan and many surrounding districts are too.

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