Wisconsin law requires that public school districts report pupil count data to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) relative to two (2) dates during the school year: (1) the third Friday in September and (2) the second Friday in January.  The data collected is used to determine membership for school finance purposes.  Because the third Friday in September is quickly approaching, this article will serve as a brief overview of school districts’ obligations regarding collecting and reporting third Friday data to the DPI.

This year, the third Friday in September falls on September 15, 2023.  School districts must collect pupil count information relative to that date and report it to the DPI using the PI-1563 Pupil Count Report (PI-1563) in the School Finance Reporting Portal.[1]

Obtaining a Starting Headcount

For a person charged with submitting pupil count information for their respective school district, the process involves a complex series of steps that begins with obtaining a starting headcount of students receiving services in the district, regardless of state aid eligibility or residency.  Except as indicated in the “Exemptions” paragraph below, a school district must classify each student receiving services in the district as either:

  • Present.  A student is “Present” if the student is in attendance for instruction on the count date (i.e., September 15, 2023); or
  • Absent.  A student is “Absent” if the student was not in attendance for instruction on the count date but was in attendance on at least one (1) day before and one (1) day after the count date and remained a resident of and enrolled in the district during the period of absence.  Such a student need not be present on September 14, 2023, and September 18, 2023, in order to be counted as “Absent.”  Rather, if the student is a resident of and is enrolled in the school district and has attended any single day prior to the count date and any single day after the count date, during the 2023-2024 school year, the school district must count the student. 

A school district that provides services in its buildings or programs to a homeschooled student, a jointly enrolled county children with disabilities education board (CCDEB) student, a state tuition claim student, an incarcerated student located in jail within the district, a part-time open enrolled student, a homeless student under the McKinney-Vento Act, or a foreign exchange student, must include that student for purposes of the headcount, provided the student qualifies as either “Present” or “Absent” on the count date.  Note: this is true regardless of whether the student attends in-person, virtually, or in a blended model.[2]

In addition to such students, a school district must include a part-time open enrolled student for purposes of the starting headcount if the student is a non-resident student taking one (1) or two (2) courses at the school district.  The school district must enter a reduction for that student at a later step.

Exemptions.Unlike for a non-resident part-time open enrolled student, a resident part-time open enrolled student should not be entered in the starting headcount.  Likewise, a non-resident homeschooled student taking one (1) or (2) courses at the school district should not be entered in in the starting headcount.  Instead, the school district must account for such students at later steps.

Making Reductions and Additions to the Headcount

After the school district has entered all students into the PI-1563 for purposes of the starting headcount, the school district must make certain reductions and additions to the headcount.  Generally speaking, the school district must make the following reductions and additions for both resident and non-resident students,[3] as follows:

First, the school district must reduce the headcount by recording any non-resident students who are receiving services in the district but were not counted for revenue limit or state aid purposes.

Second, the school district must reduce the headcount by recording resident students who are receiving services in the district but were not counted as full-time students for revenue limit and state aid purposes.  The school district will enter information for homeschooled and private school students separately within the PI-1563 Portal.

Third, the school district must increase the headcount by recording resident students who are receiving services from other districts or programs for which the resident district is paying the cost of full-time tuition.  If a student is returning to take one (1) or (2) courses in the district under part-time open enrollment, the student should only be included in this section.

In addition to these reductions and additions, a school district will also be asked, when applicable, to include information pertaining to four (4) year old students and intradistrict integration transfer program students.

The aforementioned information (i.e., the starting headcount, reductions, and additions) will be used to obtain an adjusted headcount for the school district.  The adjusted headcount will then be converted to full-time equivalency (FTE), which will be used, in conjunction with other membership numbers, to calculate the school district’s FTE for revenue limit and equalization aid purposes.

Beyond the aforementioned additions and reductions, which modify the headcount, a school district must also account for any non-resident homeschool students attending the district under Wis. Stat. § 118.53 on a part-time basis.  A homeschool student attending the school district on a part-time basis will not modify the district’s headcount; however, the school district must enter such a student in the PI-1563 as either taking one (1) course or two (2) courses in the district.  A student taking one (1) course will be assigned a 0.25 FTE and a student taking two (2) courses will be assigned a 0.50 FTE for equalization aid purposes (not revenue limit purposes).

Around February 2024, the SFS team will announce which school districts will be subject to a membership audit.  Prior to any audit, however, a school district should reconcile all membership changes that have occurred between the third Friday in September and the second Friday in January count dates.  School districts should keep such reconciliations and supporting documentation on file at the district office for the DPI or an auditor, upon request.  The reconciliation process not only helps validate a school district’s counts but aids the district in accurately reporting count data. 

To avoid errors that might impact a school district’s resources, it is advisable to report the count data in accordance with the DPI’s guidelines, correct any errors discovered as soon as possible, and reconcile the data.  If a school district has questions regarding any matter related to counting students for membership purposes, the district should consult with legal counsel.

[1] If a school district does not have school on the count date for unplanned events (e.g., weather-related events) or planned events (i.e., school board approved non-instruction days), the school district must contact the DPI’s School Finance Services (SFS) team to obtain an alternate count date.  Because alternate count dates are held in close proximity to September 15, 2023, school districts should not delay in contacting the SFS team in such situations.

[2] If a school district already has policies in place as to how teachers will record attendance in the district’s student information system (SIS) with respect to these students, the district should process the third Friday count as usual.  However, if no such policies currently exist, the school district will need to define such policies for each respective setting that are being used for the 2023-2024 school year and determine alternative means for documenting attendance for the third Friday count.  Any school district that is randomly selected for a membership audit will need to make available to the auditors the district’s attendance policies and documentation related to its headcount.

[3] More detailed information regarding such reductions and additions can be found on the DPI’s “Pupil Count PI-1563” webpage. 

For questions regarding this article, please contact the author,

or your Renning, Lewis & Lacy attorney.

Laura E. Pedersen

Laura E. Pedersen

lpedersen@law-rll.com | (844) 626-0909

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