Michigan's school count day on Yom Kippur, prompting concerns in Jewish community

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish year and many observers abstain from work and school. But in 2022, the state of Michigan's critical ‘count day’ is the same day, leading many in the Jewish community to express concern about how they are being represented in schools this year.

Wednesday, Oct. 5, is the fall count day - on which the state of Michigan tallies the number of students attending schools. Parents are urged by schools to make sure their kids are present on Wednesday and some districts even ask parents not to schedule doctor appointments on this day. 

But in the Jewish community, which is 9% of the Metro Detroit population, Wednesday is also Yom Kippur. It's regarded as the holiest day of fasting in the Jewish community. Many adults don't work on Yom Kippur and children aren't in school.

If students are not in school for count day, it affects the amount of money the school district receives from the school. Currently, districts receive $9,150 per student and 90% of the school's funding comes from the fall count day.

Ann Arbor Public Schools requested a waiver from the Michigan Department of Education but it was denied.

In response, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel sent a letter to Dr. Michael Rice, the state's Superintendent of Public Instruction, where she asked for his support in making sure all students are counted.

"Understandably, families who observe Yom Kippur are concerned about the effect on their schools. I hope you will continue to convey to school districts and parents that they do not need to worry, as Count Day is the start of a "count period," and students who are absent on the day itself will be counted in the weeks ahead," the letter read. "I also ask the MDE to ensure that going forward, as it follows Michigan law, which requires Michigan schools to hold Count Day on the first Wednesday in October, it carefully examines conflicts for religious holidays and works with schools to accommodate them…"

On the state website, the MDE lists three criteria for students to be counted if they miss count day:

  • If a student gets an excused absence and attends within the next 30 days.
  • If a student receives an unexcused absence and attends within the next 10 days.
  • If a student is suspended and attends within the next 45 days.

West Bloomfield has one of the highest Jewish populations in the state. A spokesperson told FOX 2 that the district applied for a count day comp, which means students will be counted on Thursday, October 6.