Tuesday, September 18, 2018

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Rural school districts receive more state aid

Area schools superintendents cheer newly signed law

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    Domanic Meyers, left, and Athena Bluem play with phones during preschool in 2011 in Augusta.

    Staff photo by Dan Reiland
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The Augusta school district will receive an additional $63,949 in state aid this year after Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill Monday that increases funding for rural school districts.

Augusta school board President Byron King was pleased to hear the measure had been signed into law.

“It’s always good when the governor adds money to your district,” King said. “It will give us opportunities to increase teachers’ salaries. We are also looking at increasing our tech ed department. It gives us more flexibility.”

The law increases sparsity aid to 144 qualifying districts — which have 745 or fewer students and a “membership density” of fewer than 10 students per square mile. It increases that aid by $100 per student — from $300 to $400.

The law increases the maximum that qualifying low-spending districts can spend through a combination of property taxes and state aid per student from $9,100 to $9,400 for the 2018-19 school year. The limit will increase by $100 per year to a maximum of $9,800 in the 2022-23 school year.

“This is a good day for our school district and rural school districts across Wisconsin,” said Augusta schools Superintendent Ryan Nelson. “I was excited to see this get traction (in the Legislature). I see it going toward staff salaries, and the cost of increases for health insurance. I’m appreciative of the attention rural school districts are receiving. They are the focal point in a lot of communities.”

Cornell schools Superintendent Paul Schley said his district is on the low end of funding, at $9,270 per student. So his district not only is getting $44,702 in increased sparsity aid, it also will see its per student spending increase by $130 each to get to the $9,400 minimum.

“I’ve really got to thank (state Reps.) Kathy Bernier, Rob Summerfield and (state Sen.) Terry Moulton — they really championed for it,” Schley said. “That money helps us out with our transportation costs. Sparsity aid just makes sense. It’s a nice step. It will help a lot of us around here.”

New Auburn schools Superintendent Scott Johnson also was pleased that his district will receive about $30,800 in increased aid.

“Obviously, we are thrilled any time we can increase our revenue sources,” Johnson said. “We are operating in lean times. (The money) is going into our existing programs, which we were coming up short in.”

The bill was authored by Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, and Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green. The Assembly approved it 90-3 on Feb. 13, and the Senate approved it 31-1 on Feb. 20.

Walker signed it at Riverdale High School in Muscoda.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact: chris.vetter@ecpc.com


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