Detroit Public Schools Students' Low Attendance in 2010-11 Means School District Pays Price

Detroit Public Schools wraps up its school year on June 15. But even after the final bell rings and students leave for summer break, the district will still be grappling with the financial consequences of last year's low attendance figures.

The Detroit News reports that DPS will lose about $4 million in state funds over the next four years because student attendance levels fell below 75 percent for 10 days during the 2010-11 school year.

The state requires school districts to meet these standards in order to receive their complete per-pupil funding. The penalty was originally $4.2 million, but DPS worked with the state to get the amount reduced to $4 million.

In March, Governor Snyder required the state Department of Human Services to tie parents' welfare cash assistance payments to their children's school attendance as part of a crackdown on truancy.

DPS spokeswoman Jennifer Mrozowski said in an email that the district has made attendance a major priority this school year.

It began working on the issue even before the first day of school began, enlisting four dozen DPS attendance officers and parents to knock on doors in a campaign to keep kids in class.

The district also held workshops and coordinated with over a dozen clergy leaders to encourage parents to have their children in class "all day, every day."

In February DPS worked with United Way for Southeast Michigan to sponsor a 11-week, 17 school attendance challenge to see, which school could best drive up attendance.

"It's imperative that parents bring children to school on time and that they stay all day every day," Mrozowski said. "Doing so ensures that children will not only receive all the academic advantages at DPS but also will ensure the district receives full state funding to support teaching and learning."

Next year's attendance at DPS will likely be affected by the creation of the new Educational Achievement Authority district, which will be formed out of 15 of DPS' lowest-performing schools.