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Detroit's Enrollment Campaign Brings Small Boost

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Bobb tour_AP.jpg
Detroit public schools' enrollment campaign may have encouraged a few more parents and students to say "I'm in," but a significant number continue to vote with their feet, leaving the troubled district behind.

The $500,000 effort even brought two high-profile appearances by actor and comedian Bill Cosby (who has a doctorate in education) to support the cause.

While the district's campaign netted about 40 more students for the official state count than the projected 83,777, that number is still a drop from the estimated 93,457 students enrolled in Detroit schools last year—the first year since World War I that the school district had fewer than 100,000 students.

The district said this morning it is making a serious last push to get as many students as possible accounted for by Friday's state deadline to gain full state funding credit for each student. Though the district can count 83,812 students currently, school officials say that as of this week, 85,851 students have attended in some fashion.

"It's a tragedy that a child will come to school, walk through the door and for whatever reason, leave the school," Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb told a small group of district workers, attendance officers, and auditors on Monday.

With a $259 million deficit, a $500.5 million bond issue to sell, ongoing investigations into years of improper spending and a legal battle between the school board and the state-appointed emergency financial manager, Detroit school officials have more on their plates than most administrators can imagine.

The downward spiral of enrollment over the past decade has escalated as high unemployment rates have forced families to leave Michigan in search of work, and concerns about academic quality and financial management of the district have prompted some parents to send their children to charter schools or school districts in neighboring suburbs.

In the final push, a recruitment team is being paid to hit the streets and look for students eligible to return. Those workers will get a $100 bonus for every student who comes back and can be fully counted for state-funding purposes. With the recent cuts in Michigan's K-12 education budget, the cash-strapped district will need every penny to educate its students.

Photo credit: Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb, right, and attendance agent Norman Taylor check on a house on the city's east side, on Oct. 26, checking on students who may not be in city schools full-time. Carlos Osorio/AP

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