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District asking that kids attend school next week; Last enrollment count

By Staff | Oct 9, 2008

Next week is “FTE Week,” the time when the state carries out its final count of full-time enrolled students, according to the Lee County School District. For weeks the district has been proclaiming this week as a time of serious reckoning, when it will become painfully clear if any further cuts are needed.

To prevent any further state cuts, the district is asking that parents and members of the community ensure that all students attend school from Oct. 13-17 so enrollment counts are high.

“We are hopeful we will be higher because every student we have means we have additional funds from the state and that is less that we have to trim from the budget,” said Joe Donzelli, spokesperson for the school district.

Superintendent James Browder announced on Sept. 23 that the district is facing an additional $20 million budget shortfall on top of the $29 million announced this spring. Already the cuts have resulted in hundreds of position cuts and the juggling of staff members to different positions.

At the heart of the problem is student enrollment. The 20-day count was 79,457 on Sept. 16. Donzelli explained that the numbers are fluid and constantly changing, but at the start of this school year the district was down by 3,100 students.

Funding for the district comes from the FTE count or the number of full-time equivalent students. If that number is higher than expected, the district could receive more money from the state. For every enrolled student the district is given $3,971.74, a decrease of $108 from last year.

Donzelli added that the district can receive more funding per student if they are an ESE or at-risk student.

The district is asking parents to forego vacations or planned trips next week so the enrollment numbers are reflective of how many students are in the school district.

“We ask that every day. If you are school age you need to be in school, but if anyone out there was thinking about their child taking off, and it can be avoided, we are asking for that to happen,” said Donzelli. “If they leave, that child is not counted, so we don’t get money from the state but we have to pay for that child.”