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Show up to school, win a plasma TV

On Count Day, which determines how much state funding Michigan school districts will get, some districts are offering incentives in hopes of netting high attendance rates.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
  • Third place film critic, 2021 LA Press Club National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards
Leslie Katz
2 min read

Some lucky kid in Detroit will get a 42-inch plasma television--just for showing up to school Wednesday. The free TV is part of a plan to lure as many kids as possible to the classroom on Count Day, the designated day for students to be tallied to determine state aid allotments.

Detroit, as well as other districts in Michigan, are offering a range of incentives to students in hopes of jacking up attendance rates in an age of budget cuts and dwindling enrollment. In Detroit, every student enrolled above the budgeted number brings $7,550 in state resources for students and classrooms, according to the Detroit Public Schools.

If that lesson on the American Revolution won't get them into the classroom, maybe this will. Panasonic

Judging from that big-screen TV being raffled off in a Count Day contest by radio broadcast company Radio One, we're not just talking prizes like T-shirts here. Detroit students who make it to school Wednesday will also be eligible for a laptop, an iPod Nano, and an American Express gift card through the raffle.

Some might argue that such a reward system sets a dangerous quid pro quo precedent, while others will view it as a savvy--if gimmicky--move that could impact kids' future.

Regardless, Michigan school officials consider Count Day crucial, as about 75 percent of the state's school districts are losing enrollment, according to the Michigan School Business Officials organization. The reasons range from parents searching for better options for their kids to the smaller number of students entering schools as the last of the baby boomers' children graduate.

With figures like that at stake, districts are mobilizing with attractions, including parades, country hoe-downs, basketball games, free skating tickets, movies and, in Detroit's case, what appears to be ultimate reward: gadgets.

Not all districts are going the gifts-as-incentive route, however. David Mustonen, the Dearborn district's communications coordinator, says his district decided to go with a "firm" reminder instead, according to WWJ Newsradio.

Not as glamorous as a television, to be sure, but hopefully just as effective.