Archive for Thursday, September 30, 2004

USD 232’s enrollment increases 7.5 percent

September 30, 2004

Kansas public schools are in the middle of a three-week window between the date they are required to take student head counts and the deadline to report findings to the state.

Sept. 20 counts from De Soto USD 232 indicate enrollment is up from last year but not by as much as first predicted. For all districts, pupils equal state dollars, which in turn affects the budget.

This year, districts will receive $3,863 in base state aid per pupil.

A weighting formula is applied to give more for at-risk students or those with special needs, such as students in the English as a Second Language program. Growing districts like De Soto also receive extra money to apply toward new facilities. Districts with exceptional transportation needs may also receive more money based on the weighting formula.

Overall, the bulk of the money a district receives from the state is dependent on how many students it has enrolled.

Because De Soto has fewer students than predicted earlier this summer when planners created the year's budget, they will end up operating with less money.

However, district director of operations Jack Deyoe said he wasn't worried.

"We're not talking that big a difference," he said. "It's still good growth with 300 new students, it's just not quite what we were expecting."

In September of 2003, De Soto's total enrollment was 4,521. Though numbers are still not audited, this year's Sept. 20 count was 4,859, an increase of 338 students or 7.48 percent. Based on the high number of single-family home permits issued in the district's boundaries in 2003, the district first projected an increase of about 9 percent for 2004-2005, Deyoe said.

Any shortfall in money will be taken out of individual buildings' operating budgets and would be dispersed enough so as not to make a big difference in any one place or program, Deyoe said.

He said it would adversely affect the district if enrollment quit growing over a period of several years but said he knew that wouldn't happen because so many families with children are still moving in.

"It's down, but on the other side of it, we know houses are being built," he said. "They're still out there somewhere, they just haven't been hit by them yet."

The tell-tale sign the district would keep growing was that the heaviest growth was happening in the youngest grades, Deyoe said.

"We really have got large numbers in the primary grade levels," he said. "They're coming in from the bottom up."

Students must be enrolled and in class on Sept. 20 to be counted. If students are absent that day -- about 1 percent usually are absent on any given day, Deyoe said -- the schools can add them in if they attended at least one day before Sept. 20 and at least one day after Sept. 20, but before or on Oct. 4.

"As long as they get back into school, then the district can still count that kid," said Mike Murphy, director of auditing for the Kansas State Department of Education.

Schools have until Oct. 8 to turn their numbers in to the state.

On Oct. 18, state auditors will begin the process of verifying reports from Kansas' 301 districts, a process that lasts into April, Murphy said.

Schools self-report numbers and names of all enrolled children.

"We then look at attendance records to make sure those kids fulfill the attendance part of that rule," Murphy said.

Once in a while, districts try to pull a fast one on the state in order to get more money.

"It happens but not very often, because they know that we will be there," Murphy said. "We audit every school district, so it isn't like you can do it without us ever coming and looking at it."

Several years ago, one small district which Murphy didn't name tried enrolling senior citizens who never finished high school and having them in the building on that day. They counted them with the regular students and teachers verified their attendance.

"We tightened down some rules because of that," Murphy said.

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