CALUMET-LAURIUM-KEWEENAW MA 18-2  4/25/19

Michigan Department of Education

 

FINAL REPORT AND DECISION

OF

THE SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION

 

In the matter of:         Appeal by Public Schools of Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw of the

Fall 2016 Pupil Membership Count

Docket No. MA 18-2

BACKGROUND FACTS

On July 13, 2017, Gloria Suggitt, pupil membership auditor of the Michigan Department of Education (Department), conducted a quality control review of the Copper Country Intermediate School District (ISD) audit of the fall 2016 pupil membership count of Public Schools of Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw (CLK).  Based on her review, Ms. Suggitt determined that CLK improperly claimed 6.63 FTEs for pupils enrolled in the district’s shared time program.  The ISD auditor adjusted the district’s fall 2016 pupil membership count accordingly and, on September 19, 2017, CLK filed a first level appeal with Naomi Casher, assistant director of the Department’s Office of Financial Management.  On March 7, 2018, Ms. Casher denied the appeal.  On April 3, 2018, CLK requested final agency review by the Superintendent of Public Instruction.[1]

DISCUSSION

At issue in this appeal is CLK’s inclusion in its fall 2016 pupil membership count of 38 nonpublic pupils enrolled in various courses at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels.  Ms. Casher found that each of the disputed courses covered a subject considered essential and that therefore the nonpublic pupils enrolled in the courses were not countable for state aid purposes.

The controlling principles are set forth in Brighton Area Schools (MA 17-4), where I concluded that a public school district may include in its pupil membership count a nonpublic pupil enrolled in a nonessential course, including an advanced or enrichment course, that is in addition to essential instruction provided at the nonpublic school.  Under that decision, courses that generally go beyond basic instruction and that are not required for full-time pupils of the public school district are considered nonessential.  In addition, shared time courses must be available to full-time public school pupils, the nonpublic school pupils must be subject to the same requirements as full-time public school pupils enrolled in the courses, and the nonpublic school in which the  shared time pupil is enrolled must provide essential instruction.  In Iron Mountain Public Schools (MA 17-1) and Hamilton Community Schools (MA 18-4), I found that these principles apply to homeschooled pupils enrolled in public school district shared time programs.  In those cases, there was evidence that the homeschool instruction of the involved pupils satisfied the requirements of MCL 380.1561(3)(f) (public school enrollment is not required for a pupil being educated at home by his or her parent or guardian in an organized education program in the subject areas of reading, spelling, mathematics, science, history, civics, literature, writing, and English grammar).

After careful consideration of this matter, I find nothing in the record that calls into question CLK’s assertion that each of the disputed courses was an elective course that did not supplant essential instruction.  According to the affidavit of CLK Superintendent Christopher M. Davidson, all courses offered to shared time pupils are available to full-time pupils during regular school hours.  He further stated in his affidavit that CLK does not provide instruction in core courses to shared time pupils, that there were no prerequisites for any of the disputed courses, and that all of the district’s shared time pupils either attend state-approved nonpublic schools or are educated at home in organized educational programs that satisfy the requirements of MCL 380.1561(3)(f).

Based on the record and for the above reasons, I find that each of the disputed courses was a nonessential course that was allowable in CLK’s shared time program under section 166b of the State School Aid Act, MCL 388.1766b.[2]

ORDER

Based on my review of this matter and for the above reasons, I reverse the first level decision that affirmed the deduction of 6.63 FTEs from the Fall 2016 pupil membership count of Public Schools of Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw.

This final report and decision is being transmitted to the Department of Education’s Office of Financial Management – State Aid and School Finance for implementation.

 

 

___________________________________

Sheila A. Alles

Interim Superintendent of Public Instruction

Dated: April 25, 2019

 



[1] At the request of CLK, this matter was held in abeyance.  One reason for the request was to await issuance of the decision in Brighton Area Schools (MA 17-4).

[2] As in the cited cases, the only issue addressed in this case relates to the requirement that shared time courses be limited to nonessential courses.  As in the earlier decisions, I do not address, and I express no opinion about, other requirements set forth in MCL 388.1766b about which no question has been raised in this case.