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Posted on Thu, Oct 1, 2009 : 4:41 p.m.

Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti school districts post gains in student enrollment

By David Jesse

The jubilation was evident when administrators in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti school districts reported their official student count today.

That’s because their districts bucked recent trends and added students in Wednesday’s count, which translates into extra money for budgets under siege by a proposed $218 per pupil funding cut from the state.

Wednesday’s count is vital for funding for districts, which receive money for each student enrolled. That money makes up the bulk of each district’s revenue.

The state uses a formula to come up with the total number of students enrolled; it takes 75 percent of the total from Wednesday’s count and 25 percent from the previous spring. 

Wednesday’s numbers aren’t final for 10 days.

Not every traditional school district gained students.

The biggest loss came in the Willow Run school district. The already-reeling district dropped to 1,738 students, which is 102 students fewer than budgeted for.

Combine that with the proposed per-pupil funding cut, and Willow Run will have to cut $1,143,884 from this year’s budget. The district was already more than $2 million in the hole entering the year.

The loss of students also triggers a provision in a state-mandated deficit elimination plan that will force the closure of an elementary school next school year. The district closed one elementary school at the beginning of this school year.

Also dropping students was Saline, which had budgeted to be flat, but lost 30 students, Superintendent Scot Graden said.

Lincoln also appeared to lose students, Superintendent Lynn Cleary said in an e-mail to She said the preliminary district count shows a loss of 60 students.

"Obviously, we are watching what our legislators are going to do with the school aid budget, so it's difficult to make decisions on the future of this year," Cleary said in the e-mail.

"We are also waiting to have our district audit to see where we stand as well. As you know our teachers and support staff, transportation and non-affiliates have taken concessions for this year which helped tremendously in balancing the budget. If the state makes the cuts that have been tossed around, then we will have to look at every program that we offer and look to find ways to reduce once more."

In Ypsilanti, the extra 37 students over last year likely resulted from the district’s schools-of-choice program, which allows for students from neighboring districts like Willow Run to attend Ypsilanti schools.

In Ann Arbor, officials budgeted for a gain of 50 students over last year, district spokeswoman Liz Margolis said. But they ended up with 68 additional students, meaning an overall gain of 18 students.

“That’s good news,” Margolis said. “We’re very pleased.”

The district saw its largest growth in the high schools, Margolis said.

The district isn’t sure why the growth occurred - whether it’s new students moving into the district or students who were attending private or charter schools coming back to the district.

Other districts like Dexter saw growth, but not as much as they budgeted for.

Superintendent Rob Glass said in an e-mail that the total count was 3,642, which is an increase of seven students over fall count 2008. But that's less than the 25 students they budgeted for, which means a loss of $100,000 to $140,000.

“Here's my larger worry: We also based our preliminary budget on a zero increase in per-pupil funding," he said in the e-mail. "If the previously proposed $218 per pupil pro-ration materializes, that will be a much greater problem - a shortfall of about $800k. However, this is still up in the air pending an agreement on the state budget. By the time this gets resolved at the state level, we will be 1/4 of the way into the school year, with students in classrooms, and very little room to maneuver in terms of ways to make cuts. A very unfair situation in which to place schools.”

Local charter schools also grew, but still face funding challenges.

For example, Al Waters, director of Honey Creek Community School, saw his school increase by 23 students. 

“While these numbers show a net increase in state funds, they do not address the cost of an additional teacher and the rent for an additional classroom," he said. "I'd also like to point out that an important facet of Honey Creek Community School is our small class sizes. Our average class size is 18 students, so because we are receiving fewer dollars for fewer students, the proposed cuts have a greater affect on our ability to meet the unique needs of each student. Our funding challenges are compounded by the fact that as a public charter academy we do not receive any local funds and will not receive any additional funds if the ISD millage increase passes. The proposed foundation grant cuts further exacerbate the inequitable nature of PSA funding.”

David Jesse covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or at 734-623-2534.



Mon, Oct 5, 2009 : 7:19 p.m.

I have a novel idea, why don't we average the student enrollment for the beginning of the school year to determine the numbers. I am tired of this corrupt system of telling families to send their kids one day to school to get funding. I want the average enrollment to be funded, not one day to provide overfunding. Other districts should be brought up on charges by telling the day of the count or enticing students with bribes. Take back our country from the thieves.


Mon, Oct 5, 2009 : 12:58 p.m.

Larry, the landscape has changed. It's only a little bit about private schools. Thirty years ago charter schools didn't exist. Charter schools are "niche" public schools, and they fill needs that public schools either cannot or will not fill. Take, for instance, Honey Creek--its format is similar to Ann Arbor Open, BUT--Ann Arbor Open is only for Ann Arbor students, and it has a fairly long waitlist. So it serves a need for people who cannot get into Ann Arbor Open because of where they live or where they are on the wait list. Some of the other charter schools are clearly pulling kids away from the Willow Run schools, where only half the kids are graduating--


Mon, Oct 5, 2009 : 8:57 a.m.

Glass states, Here's my larger worry: We also based our preliminary budget on a zero increase in per-pupil funding". I heard that Dexter approved a raise for administrators this past summer. Expects no new money for students, but he asked the district to give out raises. When was the last time Dexter got 25 new students?

Larry Kestenbaum

Sat, Oct 3, 2009 : 9:50 p.m.

I grew up in East Lansing, which had excellent schools and high taxes. People would move there specifically for the schools. The number of East Lansing kids in private school was essentially zero in the 1970 and 1980 censuses. Ann Arbor families are about as affluent as East Lansing townie families, and the Ann Arbor public schools are roughly comparable to East Lansing. So the high proportion of private school students here is astonishing to me. Perhaps it's not fair to compare East Lansing 30 years ago to Ann Arbor today. Maybe things have changed so much in the last generation that families who can afford it are turning away from even the best public schools.


Fri, Oct 2, 2009 : 1:47 p.m.

I was wondering if this would happen, with the amount of job losses in Michigan, it's amazing that anyone can keep their children in a private school anymore. As an example, I have neighbors that still have their pre school aged children in a Montessori school and it's costing them 800 dollars a month for three half days of school a week!


Fri, Oct 2, 2009 : 10:42 a.m.

I wonder how Greenhills and the other private schools are doing. I bet a lot of parents no longer have the money to pay for both private school tuition and government school taxes so they're sending their kids back to government schools.

Basic Bob

Fri, Oct 2, 2009 : 9:56 a.m.

Willow Run lost 261 students since last year. This is a 13% loss in only one year. They change school boards and superintendents, but the problems are just too big. Forget consolidation. The state needs to step in, close the doors, and set new boundaries.