It’s almost Sept. 14. Do you know where your children are?
We ask because in two weeks Indiana schools will have to take stock of how many students have enrolled for the 2012-13 school year. That number becomes very important in January, when school corporations see their payments from the state increased or decreased based on changing enrollment.
Here are five things you should know about count day:
- It’s about enrollment, not attendance. “A common misconception that comes to us is it’s based on how many kids are in the building that day,” says Stephanie Sample, spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Education. But the count isn’t a measure of attendance. It’s based on average daily membership, or how many students have enrolled. “So parents shouldn’t worry about making sure their kids are in class if they’re sick.”
- As recently as last year, the legislature let corporations count “ghosts” in their average daily membership — students who had attended previously but were no longer with the district. That way a corporation whose enrollment dipped significantly could spread cuts and closures out over a period of several years. “By the time you count, by the second or third week in September, you’ve hired new teachers, you’ve got your boundaries set,” Libby Cierzniak, a lobbyist for Indianapolis Public Schools, told StateImpact in January. Now schools are paid each month based on the count of the previous September. Schools will no longer be paid for students they aren’t teaching.
- There’s a second count day, but it isn’t used for funding purposes. Enrollment is tallied again in February, though right now that count doesn’t change how much districts receive from the state each month. “It shows us how many students have been mobile,” says Sample. This year’s second count day is Feb. 15, 2013.
- Get ready for that to change. We’ve written about the boring school finance bill that could change everything — no, really. Right now, schools with fewer students enrolled on Sept. 14 than they had last year won’t see their funding go down until January. But a bill introduced earlier this year would make the change in payments more immediate. So schools would see payments in October based on the count in September — good for corporations where enrollment is increasing, bad where it’s decreasing. Payments would be adjusted again after the second count day. “It would more directly tie dollars to students in the school. It’s a good move as far as we’re concerned,” says Sample. Districts that have lost a lot of students to charters support multiple count days. “I think there’s consensus. It’s going to happen. It cuts both ways for Indianapolis Public Schools.”Cierzniak says IPS already loses money when students enroll elsewhere, but this way the district will see its funding restored when students leave charters and return to public school mid-year.
—Libby Cierzniak, IPS lobbyist
- We’ll finally know how many students will attend four takeover schools in Indianapolis. Superintendent Eugene White says operators Charter Schools USA and EdPower are being overpaid for students that transfered last year to another IPS school. So far, enrollment is down at all four Indianapolis schools — Arlington, Howe, Manual and Donnan — targeted last year for state intervention. That could mean cuts when payments are adjusted in the spring.