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Counting students in order to count up funding

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Students in suburban Denver plan to walk out of school on Wednesday in an act of civil disobedience. One of the reasons is to protest a proposal that would, among other things, de-emphasize civil disobedience from their history curriculum.  

If the students wanted to make a point, they couldn’t have picked a more significant day to do it. That’s because every year on October 1, Colorado schools count up the students who show up in order to figure out how much state funding each school district will get.  

One school principal went on Facebook to ask students to show up to class on so-called “count day,” because anywhere from $4,000 to $6,000 in per-pupil funding from Colorado state is on the line. 

“In the past, school districts have done everything they can to get kids to attend” on count day, says Michael Smith with the Denver-based national group Education Commission on the States. “So, they’ll have pizza for free, or they’ll have activities. They will send out notices to families.” 

Nationwide, about half of school district budgets come from state funding. But only a minority of states use a single count day. It’s attractive because it requires less paperwork. But Jane Urschel of the Colorado Association of School Boards says her members want a different method. 

“Years ago, we had two count days,” she says. “So, it’s been an issue whether this is the best way. We know we need to make better policy on that” Urschel says. 

Among other options is to count up the average number of students in school during the whole year, which is the most popular option among states. 

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