All of the unrest at Muncie Community Schools has left some parents feeling anxious about the future of the district. Amy Logan, the mother of two MCS students, is considering transferring her children to Burris Laboratory School. Samantha Brammer // DNFile
MCS financial problems could lead to enrollment drop
All of the unrest in Muncie Community Schools has left some parents feeling anxious about the future of the district.
Amy Logan, the mother of two MCS students, is considering transferring her children to Burris Laboratory School, if she makes it off the waiting list. Part of the appeal is convenience — she works right across the street at Ball State — but part is because she's concerned about the morale in the district decreasing.
Logan worries that if the morale is low, the good teachers will leave the district for somewhere with better pay and a more secure work environment.
"We would have been fine with Muncie being more inconvenient if there weren't all the other issues," Logan said.
Logan has seen how having a good teacher positively influences her kids' grades, and isn't sure if she wants to risk staying in the district. She hasn't decided for sure what she's going to do yet — even if she makes it off the Burris waiting list — but she knows she doesn't want anything to impact her children's education or future.
And she's not alone with these concerns.
Michael Hicks, director of the Center for Economic Research at Ball State, said school performance plays a huge role in retention. And it doesn't help that Muncie's ISTEP scores have suffered in past years and financial issues have plagued the district.
It's reasonable to expect MCS's student numbers to drop for the next school year, simply because of the issues they've had this year. The district is operating with an $11.5 million deficit and will be closing three elementary schools next year to try to counteract that. The state has proposed a takeover to fix the district's financial problems.
With all of the uncertainty in the district — about the state takeover, about teachers leaving, about schools closing — Hicks said he expects to see enrollment declines in the district over the next few years.
"The danger to Muncie schools and Muncie as a whole is that households will view this as evidence that the school board isn’t capable of making long-term decisions about anything," Hicks said.
In the fall, Hicks estimates they'll see about 500 less students in the district. Many of the students who will leave, he said, are the high-performing ones because their families put such a high emphasis on education. This, in turn, will lower the district's average ISTEP scores and could hurt the amount of state funding it receives.
In addition to district enrollment dropping, Hicks said the school problems will make homes in the district less desirable. People look at school ratings more than ever now when they're moving, and when the district has as many problems as MCS is having, it discourages them from moving to Muncie.