The head of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is requesting increased funding for rural schools in the next state budget. But one Superintendent says while an increase in funding would be great, it ignores the biggest challenge in keeping rural schools open.
State Superintendent Tony Evers says rural schools have some unique challenges: bus rides are longer, technology often needs updating, and operation budgets are tighter. Evers is proposing allocating $33.5 million in the state's next budget to help rural schools. That amount is nearly 20 percent more than the current allocation. Evers says the schools have done their part.
"I think our rural schools have done a great job finding efficiencies all across the board, and I think it's time the state steps up and make sure they don't perish."
The help would be welcomed, but one superintendent says the state needs to find a better way to fund schools. Craig Semingson is the Superintendent for the Eleva-Strum school district in West Central Wisconsin. He says it's hard for rural school districts to thrive if they're relying on local property taxes alone.
"If so many schools have to go to referendum to pay the bills, that's just indication that there is a problem with the funding system... the increases in transportation costs or aid will certainly help: It doesn't solve the bigger picture problem."
Ever's request for an increase in rural school aid must survive review by the Department of Administration and the governor's office. The governor will unveil his proposed budget on February 20th. Lawmakers will vote on the budget after that.