Housing costs and Culver: the impact on public schools - PART 3 of 4

Nearly half of the certified faculty and staff at Culver Community Schools live outside Marshall County, and a tiny handful in Culver proper, but superintendent Brad Schuldt points out that, for the school system, "it's not just about employees.

"Families with young children have difficulty finding housing; that's a major contributor to our declining enrollment."

More, says Schuldt, than what some might assume are major factors, such as quality of the school or competition from charter schools or state-allowed vouchers.

"The biggest reason is jobs and housing opportunities."

That declining enrollment is one factor in cuts of $500,000 -- which are likely to result in cutting seven to 10 teachers' jobs this year, as reported recently in this publication -- throughout the school system.

"One of the things we want to prevent, from both the teaching staff and administration, is that we have a drain of the top quality people from our community because there's no housing here," adds Schuldt.

Due in part, of course, to school consolidation and districting, over 560 of the system's approximately 950 students reside outside Marshall County. Of the 388 of the Marshall County students, well under 100 live within walking distance of the school, with the numbers seemingly ever decreasing.

In a 2011 interview with The Culver Citizen, Schuldt noted housing costs contributed largely to the decline of student population. For the 1988-89 school year, 1,178 students attended Culver schools corporation-wide; numbers peaked during the 1997-98 school year, when the official number was 1,254 (por­table classroom buildings and building expansions launched during that period). By 2005-06, the student popu­lation was funded at 1,165 students, and numbers re­mained in the low to mid-1,100s over the next few years. By 2008-09, numbers were dipping below 1,100, and the 2010-11 school year saw recorded students at just 1,018, a reduction of some 200 students from the peak. Additionally, the number of students corporation-wide receiving free and reduced lunches grew to 54 percent of all students in the corporation that year.

While present funding reductions pertain to a number of state-related issues, since school funding is based on student population, reductions of students in the Culver area over the years have translated to growing losses to the corporation's budget.