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District asks court to rule on DPI enrollment count change

Aug. 28, 2009

The Wauwatosa School District is asking a judge to decide whether the district can count students at the Juvenile Detention Center School as resident pupils.

In December 2008, the state Department of Public Instruction changed how it allows the district to count detention center students. The move will cost Wauwatosa about $1 million over the next four years, district officials said.

The district on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the DPI in Dane County Circuit Court in an effort to get the issue resolved, according to a press release from the district.

Because the Detention Center School is located on the Milwaukee County Grounds, the school is staffed by the Wauwatosa School District. For more than 15 years, students there during enrollment count dates in September and January were considered residents, no matter how short their stay. This bolstered the district's revenue cap authority and state aid.

In addition, the state reimbursed the district for all costs associated with students who were there less than a full semester.

The DPI said the old counting method meant the district was double-dipping on some students, getting more state dollars than it should.

However, Wauwatosa Superintendent Phil Ertl said the district wasn't cheating, but was following DPI orders issued in the mid-1990s. The change will result in lost income for the district, which will lead to program and staff cuts, he said.

Currently, the district provides education for an average of 110 children in the detention center and 20 at the hospital, according to a news release.

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