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State updates student count day guidance amid concerns about Yom Kippur

By: - August 29, 2022 2:45 pm

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State education officials have updated their guidance concerning the annual student count day taking place on the same day as an important Jewish holiday.

Last week, criticism was leveled at the Michigan Department of Education after it was learned that count day is scheduled for Oct. 5, which is Yom Kippur, marking the end of the Jewish high holy days.

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. 

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

Martin Ackley, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), previously told the Michigan Advance that state law requires the fall pupil count day to be the first Wednesday in October, but said the law also allows for some flexibility to that date and the department will make school districts aware of that.

However, a memo was issued to schools districts across the state Thursday from Kyle Guerrant, MDE deputy superintendent of Finance and Operations. He said that for a district that is not in session on count day due to conditions not within the control of school authorities, such as the date falling on Yom Kippur this year, the next day on which the district is in session will become the count day, with the approval of the state superintendent. 

“A district may request an alternate count day using the appropriate application form, per state law, and approval will be granted provided the application satisfies the requirements for an alternate count day in law,” stated the memo. “Any district that chooses not to schedule instruction on count day will still need to ensure that the district meets the 180-day and 1,098-hour requirement, since not scheduling instruction on count day is not considered a cancellation and, thus, would not be eligible for forgiven time.”

Despite the update, Noah Arbit, the West Bloomfield founder of the Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus and the Democratic nominee for the 20th House District, told the Advance that while he is thankful for the accommodations that will ameliorate the impact of count day falling on Yom Kippur this year, he remains committed to seeing a structural change.

“There is a simple statutory fix to the School Aid Act, whereby the Legislature conditions the formulaic date for school count day by inserting a clause that says, essentially, “should a religious observance fall on the scheduled count day for any given year, MDOE will declare the immediate following day to be count day,” said Arbit. “It is truly not a complex change, and will not only provide the certainty districts and parents need, but it will send a message to not only the Jewish community, but all religious communities in Michigan that the State of Michigan is responsive to our needs. This is really about respect.”

Arbit, who is facing Republican Albert Mansour in the Nov. 8 election, said that if elected, he will be committed to pursuing that change in statute alongside Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) and Rep. Samantha Steckloff (D-Farmington Hills), two Jewish legislators who have been working to address the 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.