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Friday, May 6, 2016

Impact of student census decline still unclear

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Administrators at Cloverdale and North Putnam school corporations are still trying to determine the impact of losing a combined 150 students this year over their student populations last September.

The trouble is, the rules Indiana uses to dole out appropriations money are so complex that it will take a long time to fully calculate how the enrollment drop will affect funding and revenue for the schools, administrators say.

However, Cloverdale Schools Superintendent Carrie Milner said the in-depth formulas actually help insulate districts, like Cloverdale, that see a frequent ebb and flow in enrollment numbers.

North Putnam Superintendent Murray Pride said despite anticipating a 10-student drop in his budget this year, the district could lose more than $200,000.

Schools across the state counted the students in class Sept. 7. The Indiana Department of Education uses this number, plugged into a formula that counts kindergarteners as half, as the basis for its per-pupil funding for schools across the state.

Cloverdale lost 77 and a half students in this year's count. North Putnam saw a 69-student enrollment drop. South Putnam enrollment dropped 10 students, while Greencastle Community Schools will receive funding for 28 more students next year.

The original idea behind the Average Daily Membership count was to give the districts that were growing money to support the influx of students, while taking money away from districts that were shrinking and didn't need the funding as badly, said Greencastle Superintendent Robert Green.

However, since often times the enrollment loss in districts is spread evenly across grades and buildings, the cost to the schools doesn't decline with the enrollment.

"We still have the same number of buildings that we have to take care of, regardless of the number of students we lose," he said.

And it doesn't help that the formulas for state funding are some of the most complicated in the nation, said Green, who has worked at school districts in several states.

Between the line items for "Tuition Support," the inputs used to determine "Special Education Grant" eligibility and the other factors, Greencastle Schools' state funding application totaled 34 printed pages last year.

That, combined with teacher contracts the guarantee employment for each school year, makes budget planning for a school district an inexact science at best, Pride said.

The large drop in students, coupled with a declining enrollment for the past several years means North Putnam will almost certainly have to make cuts to stay in the black, he said.

Cloverdale, on the other hand, is in a slightly better position, Milner said.

Because the district has seen a jump in enrollment in past years, the state should not make dramatic cuts in its appropriations.

Milner also said that while she is concerned, about the large dip in student numbers, she has come to accept her student body's transience as something the district has to deal with.

Exit interviews show that children often move between divorced parents who live in different school districts, she said. Many families also move frequently when jobs come up elsewhere.

And last week's count is just a one day tally, Milner added. She expects many of the students to return throughout the year.

North Putnam, however, is not used to such a fluctuation and administrators are still trying to determine where their students have gone and why they've left, Pride said.

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