However, we need to do more. I call it the "Perfect Storm" as we now fund our schools based on enrollment as the funding follows the child. Unfortunately, our rural schools in Indiana have lost 5 percent of their students this past decade, and District 74 has lost almost 8 percent. Further, Hoosiers voted for property tax caps making it more difficult for communities with shrinking populations and/or older populations to support their existing infrastructure and services.
While most of our populations remained relatively flat, locally we got older. In Dubois County, we lost 16 percent of our age 25-44-year-olds in less than a decade. Without this age group, we not only lose a good portion of our tax base, we lose children in our schools, and, most importantly, our communities are operating with less youthful energy and leadership.
I have regular conversations with older constituents who share that, of their several children, few or none live in the area as job opportunities and careers drew them away. I've talked to many young adults who wish to move back, but they don't know if they can find a job opportunity that would sustain their family. And I've talked to many of the "old timers" who fear what our communities will be like if we do nothing. I believe we can do something: communities can become "youth and young adult friendly", businesses and schools can educate our young people on the jobs that do and could exist here, and elected officials can consider policies and incentives that would encourage young people to stay and return. These and countless other specific, creative ideas should be explored.
For those who share my passion to reverse this "brain drain", I invite you to join me for the Southern Indiana Rural Communities Summit: Plugging the Brain Drain, September 8, 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. at the Huntingburg Event Center sponsored by German American Bank, Perry Spencer Communications and the University of Southern Indiana. This will be a creative problem solving event bringing elected officials, community leaders, economic development organizations and school administrators together to explore new ideas. Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman will join us for lunch. Dr. Mohammed Khayum, Dean of USI College of Business, will explore the demographic changes impacting rural Indiana. Charmaine McDowell, Director of USI Center for Human Resource Development, will share insights from a recently published book Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What It Means to America, and David Terrell, Executive Director of Indiana's Office of Community and Rural Affairs, will speak to best practices across our state and beyond.
You are also invited. There is no charge to attend, but you must register through USI Outreach and Engagement. Contact USI at 812-461-5442 for more information about registration or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We won't solve the brain drain problem overnight. However, I believe with a concerted effort we can become the place young people in large numbers will choose to call home.
Rep. Sue Ellspermann (R-Ferdinand)