Advance Notice: Briefs

Michigan’s student count day falls on Jewish holiday, prompting concerns and call for change

By: - August 25, 2022 10:12 am

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State education officials say they are aware of concerns about the annual student count day taking place on the same day as an important Jewish holiday and that procedures are in place to address the issue.

In Michigan, schools are funded by the state on a per-pupil basis for K-12 students, which sits at $9,150 for each public school student in the state budget passed last month.

That assessment is made through a standardized date, known as count day, when all public schools in Michigan tally the number of students attending their schools. 

This year, count day is scheduled for Oct. 5, which is Yom Kippur, marking the end of the Jewish high holy days.

Noah Arbit, the West Bloomfield founder of the Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus and the Democratic nominee for the 20th House District, issued a press release saying he had received several calls and messages from concerned parents in the district. 

“House District 20 is home to the greatest number of Jewish students and families in the entire State of Michigan, and many of our school districts will not hold classes on Yom Kippur, including West Bloomfield, Bloomfield Hills, and Walled Lake,” said Arbit. “While these districts have received waivers from the state to hold their count day on October 6th, this oversight is unacceptable and intolerable.”

Arbit is facing Republican Albert Mansour in the Nov. 8 election.

Martin Ackley, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education, told the Michigan Advance that state law requires the fall pupil count day to be the first Wednesday in October. 

However, he notes that the law also allows for some flexibility to that date and the department will make school districts aware of that.

“This will not be an issue,” said Ackley. “If a student has an excused absence on Yom Kippur, he or she may be counted with attendance in the following 30 calendar days.”

But for Arbit, this is a structural issue that needs to be addressed.

“I am running to represent a district that is home to the greatest number of Jewish students and families in the entire State of Michigan, and many of our school districts will not hold classes on Yom Kippur, including West Bloomfield, Bloomfield Hills, and Walled Lake,” Arbit told Michigan Advance. “While these districts have received waivers from the state to hold their count day on October 6th, the statutory oversight is unacceptable. 

“The fix is a simple matter of ensuring that when the School Aid Act next comes up for a vote in the Legislature, none of the projected count dates specified in the bill coincide with Jewish high holidays, or any other religious observance. It is not a heavy lift to ensure all communities are respected, and I am thankful for the leadership of Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) and Rep. Samantha Steckloff (D-Farmington Hills), who, as our two Jewish legislators, are working to address this issue.”

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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.

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