The Duneland School
Board heard the results of a comprehensive demographic study done by Dr.
Robert Boyd at its meeting Monday night.
Boyd, an assistant
professor of Education at Indiana State University, gave a presentation on
the nearly 30-page report he wrote on a recently completed comprehensive
study of the Duneland School district. Boyd reported that he last did a
comprehensive study of demographics, economics, and space utilization at
Duneland ten years ago, and a lot has changed.
The goal of the
study is to create projections of future enrollment patterns and evaluate
space utilization. Boyd said the main takeaways from his research are that
Duneland is being run well, but, like most schools in Indiana, is likely to
continue losing state funding for its general fund due to the dispersing of
students and a reduction in enrollment.
Boyd said state
funding in Indiana is doled out on a per student basis, but funding for each
student follows the student if he or she leaves one district for another or
for a private school. At the time of his last report, this policy was being
debated by the General Assembly--now it is in effect. “The vast majority of
schools are losing students and thus losing dollars,” he said. What is
unfortunate about this model, Boyd added, is that losing two students from a
classroom doesn’t significantly reduce any operating costs, but it can
significantly reduce state funding.
Boyd said total
enrollment in elementary schools has decreased at Duneland and it likely to
continue on that route, as the median age in Porter County is 40.3 and
Porter County’s birthrate is dropping.
On the positive
notes, Boyd said Duneland’s debt to assessed value ratio is much lower than
the average school system. In fact, the ratio is so low that if Duneland
were considered in a vacuum--absent of capital expenditures that need to be
managed with debt now through 2022--it would be on track to pay off all its
debts by that year. Boyd said he mentioned that fact not because the
district could ever be, or should ever aim to be, debt-free, but it is a
hypothetical scenario “that shows excellent management of this district over
Boyd added, “The
study concludes that you have excellent facilities that are extremely well
maintained. You also have additional space that could be utilized for
A big factor in
Boyd’s predictions a decade ago was growth expected in Jackson Township, as
Board member Michael Trout brought up. Trout said DSC bought land based on
those predictions, and the growth never came. Boyd responded it is true his
predictions can shift due to major economic changes. In the case of Jackson,
his predictions of growth were made before the 2008 recession. Overall, Boyd
ended by saying that a community that maintains excellent school programming
will always attract young people and families, the determining factor is
what those people can afford.