By Derek Kim
Williamston Post staff writer
Williamston High School Principal Jeffrey Thoenes paid close attention to the size of his student body on Wednesday.
Feb. 13 was Count Day for Michigan public schools. Counts determine the size of the approximately 80 percent share of funding that school districts get from the state.
“We run our curricular, co-curricular and athletic programs with that money. Without Count Day, we would be nothing,” Thoenes said.
Thoenes, who is entering his third year at Williamston High School, said the daily routine does not significantly change despite the day’s importance. The secretarial staff receives the lion’s share of the work, tracking attendance and documenting a multitude of state-required forms.
Steve Cook, Williamston Community Schools finance director, said total funding is 80 percent Count Day and 20 percent local sources. Property taxes, athletic events, community daycare and money from the Ingham Intermediate School District make up the rest.
“The more kids in class, the more money we get,” Cook said.
Williamston Community Schools has a foundational allowance of $6,966, meaning the district receives $6,966 per student. Cook said Williamston has a low foundational allowance compared to other schools in Greater Lansing.
The passing of Proposal A in 1995 caused the differences. As a new system of foundational allowance was established, the state did not want districts to lose the money they were already receiving. The discrepancy was a result of schools not starting at the same level.
The amount of state funding is calculated by multiplying the foundational allowance of a district by Count Day attendance.
Attendance is comprised of a blended count. A fall count in October determines 90 percent of the blended count while this week’s winter count constitutes the remaining 10 percent.
Students are required to have attend and receive instruction in all classes to be included in the count. If a student is absent, schools have 10 days to account for the pupil. However, Superintendent Narda Murphy said that has not been a problem.
Murphy said Williamston Community Schools has had strong representation on Count Day in recent years.
“We just don’t have too many kids who miss school on Count Day,” Murphy said.