Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 3, 2013

TCAPS student count holds steady

BY MICHAEL WALTON mwalton@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Students normally do the counting at school, but local district officials just completed a major numbers exercise of their own.

Wednesday marked one of two annual student “count days” at Michigan public schools. Student head counts on those days determine how much per-pupil state funding public school districts receive each year.

Count totals at Traverse City Area Public Schools remained relatively stable this year with a slight drop to 10,030, after last year’s October count was 10,053.

“We’re very pleased with those numbers,” TCAPS Human Resources Executive Director Christine Davis said.

The TCAPS count includes 9,840 students enrolled in the district and 190 “full-time equivalent” shared-time students who attend private schools but also receive instruction from TCAPS, Davis said.

TCAPS is slated to receive $7,231 per-pupil from the state this year, according to a district budget report.

Wednesday’s results showed an increase in the kindergarten student count from about 740 students last year to roughly 770 students this year.

Davis has watched enrollment trends at TCAPS for roughly 20 years. She said numbers stabilized at around 10,000 over the last four years following several years of decline.

This year’s ninth grade count total was noticeably higher than last year’s 8th grade total. Wednesday’s ninth grade count was about 795, compared to roughly 720 in eighth grade last year. The difference suggests many students who attend elementary and middle school elsewhere are enrolling in TCAPS for high school, Davis said.

A similar trend was apparent in the 11th and 12th grades. There were about 805 high school juniors tallied in count day last October and 896 high school seniors counted this year.

The second count day for the 2013-14 school year will occur in mid-February.

Totals from each day will be blended in a 90 percent-10 percent formula to determine the number of pupils for whom districts will receive state school aid funding, according to documents from the state Senate Fiscal Agency.

The count results from Wednesday therefore have a substantial effect on local districts’ state revenue, but that impact often is more acute in smaller districts, Leland Public Schools Superintendent Jason Stowe said.

Districts will receive roughly $7,000 per-pupil from the state school aid fund for the 2013-14 school year. A district with 10 students who are not tallied as part of count day stands to lose roughly $70,000 in state money. Such a loss has a greater affect on the budget of a 400-student district like Leland than on the budget of a 10,000-student district like TCAPS, Stowe said.

“Seventy-thousand means a much different thing to Leland than it does to TCAPS,” Stowe said.