Walker proposes an extra $19 million for rural schools

Some local politicians said the additional funding will only help in the short term

Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed plan would help fund transportation, internet access, and bring in additional money to schools through what’s called “Sparsity Aid.”

Many of Wisconsin’s 259 rural schools are cash strapped because of declining or stagnant enrollment, and they have specific needs that more populated districts often don’t run into.

The Cashton School District serves 573 kids from 10 townships and villages.

“There are things that a rural school has to account for that a large district doesn’t,” Cashton District Administrator David Bell said.

One of those issues is the high cost of transportation.

“We are basically 15 to 20 miles in each direction, so there is a lot to coordinate with that and a lot of challenges that go with that,” Bell said.

Bell said teachers usually have to teach more classes and more subjects than in larger districts.

“It’s hard for our teachers who maybe have a specific content area that they are interested in, and we ask them to teach in maybe three or four content areas, and I think overall compensation is a challenge,” Bell said.

Walker has proposed to give an extra $19.4 million over the next two years to rural schools, helping some of the issues Cashton faces. About $5 million of that would go towards transportation, $8.4 million to aiding rural districts with students spread out over a wide area of land, and $6 million would go towards expanding broadband access.

However, some local politicians said the additional funding will only help in the short term, and to really fix the situation the way schools are funded, it needs to change overall.

“Those categorical aids will be helpful there is no doubt about it. But it doesn’t address the underlining challenges,” Rep.Chris Danou said.

The Cashton School District is actually in a better situation than most rural school because their enrollment rate has actually increased in the past five years, which has helped with funding.

Walker will announce his official budget Tuesday night.