Rural School Task Force

Revitalization in rural Wisconsin was the theme as Wisconsin Rural Partners held it's key meeting at the Potawatomi Carter Casino and Hotel.

Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch was keynote speaker. Kleefisch says people tend to overlook the positive economics of rural Wisconsin...

"....we are still an economy largely based on manufacturing and agriculture. These are two things we do very well in the rural areas of the state. You add in tourism and additionally, woods, lumber and paper-pulp industries, you have a bustling economy....."

Several Northwoods school districts will be getting some extra money for the upcoming school year.

The Department of Public Instruction announced the allocation of sparcity aid. That aid is given to smaller districts says DPI spokesperson Tom McCarthy...

"....sparcity aid is a special aid paid to students with a low number of students per square mile and a low overall enrollment. It's a reflection of a fact that school districts with a smaller number of students have unique fiscal challenges....."

Roughly half of Wisconsin's students live in rural areas, going to schools that are increasingly in need of cash to meet needs.

A Department of Public Instruction official says it appears Governor Walker's upcoming budget will give some fiscal relief to districts in some areas, but not all the information is available.

DPI spokesperson John Johnson says two areas, sparsity aid and transportation, appear to be  recommended for more funding. Sparsity aid is sent to school districts with wide geographic areas to help pay for increased costs...

Wisconsin public schools are facing a  crisis, that  message delivered by two state legislators in a presentation given in Rhinelander Thursday evening.

In a show of bipartisan concern, Republican State Senator Dale Schultz and Democrat Assemblywoman Mandy Wright are taking their message around the state, in an effort to explain the situation and motivate citizens to challenge their legislators to work together to address what's seen in rural Wisconsin as an unfair school funding system.

The chair of the Assembly Speaker's Task Force on Rural School thinks some sought after changes asked by educators will come out of the effort. The bipartisan Task Force was put together to hear from educators and parents about the challenges facing rural schools.

Representative Rob Swearingen says after touring the state he came away with greater knowledge on the challenges facing rural schools. He says lack of broadband access hurts students, citing Eagle River area schools as an example..

Rural Schools Task Force Makes Progress

Jan 15, 2014

The rural schools taskforce has just two public hearings left before it begins to compile its report.  Assembly Speaker Robin Vos put the task force together to help get a handle on the problems faced by rural school districts. 

Committee chair Representative Rob Swearingen says last week’s hearing in Antigo was productive.               

“The best part was that we actually had time this particular hearing to hear more from the public, taxpaying citizens.  So it went very very well – I was pleased at the end of the day.” 

John O'Brien

The Assembly Speaker's Rural Schools Task Force held its third hearing Tuesday in Madison. 


Legislators heard more than three hours of testimony from educational groups and administrators.   State Superintendent of Schools Tony Evers spoke about the financial challenges facing rural schools.

"We need to do something about fixing our funding system for all the schools in the state.  We need to find ways to allocate resources that take into account the income levels of families, and not just the community's property value."

The Assembly Speaker's Task Force on Rural Schools has had two meetings to date, including one in Rhinelander. The task force has a way for those interested in the issue to follow what is happening.

Task Force Chair Rob Swearingen from Rhinelander said they recently had their second meeting in Elroy, not far from Wisconsin Dells. Swearingen says they heard similar concerns there as the first session in Rhinelander, but some differences as well. He says they've found a way to let the public know what's going on...

Ken Krall

The state is hoping to mandate more physical education in schools. Area school leaders last week said it's a worthy goal, but it places cash-strapped districts into a bind.

The Speakers Task Force On Rural Schools met in Rhinelander last week.

Task Force member, Representative Stephen Nass asked Rhinelander School Superintendent Kelli Jacobi about unfunded mandates. She mentioned the possible new phy ed requirement...

Rhinelander  will host the first of four statewide public hearings on the future of rural schools.

Chaired by state Representative Rob Swearingen of Rhinelander, the task force was called by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to look at challenges unique to rural education.

Swearingen says the Task Force is the result of a visit to the Capitol by Rhinelander school district representatives. He said the visit made an impression on Voss...