MUST-SEE: School Films Epic 12-Minute ‘Trolls’ Music Video to Lift Spirits of Sick 5-Year-Old Girl

In Uniting Students With Prospective Employers, the Whether Job Search App Wins SXSWedu Tech Competition

More HS Students Are Graduating, but These Key Indicators Prove Those Diplomas Are Worth Less Than Ever

Race & Class: Chicago Schools Sue State, Claim Minority Kids See 78 Cents Per Dollar Sent to White Schools

KIPP v. UFT: Charter Network Sues Union, Arguing It Doesn’t Represent School’s Teachers

Supreme Court Sets New Standard for Special Ed, Unanimously Rejects Minimal School Progress

D.C. Approves ESSA Accountability Plan That Emphasizes Testing Standards & Transparency

Q&A: Why Miami’s Superintendent, Once an Undocumented Immigrant, Is Banning ICE From His Schools

No Warrant, No Way In: NYC to Prevent ICE Agents From Entering Schools Without Warrants

In California, a New Push for Teacher Tenure Reform as State Bill Would Extend Probation to 3 Years

VIDEO REPLAY: The 74 Moderates a Conversation on America’s Misleading Charter School Narrative

In Pitching School Chiefs on ESSA Plans, 2 Congressmen See Wildly Different Futures for U.S. Education

Effective, Efficient — and Limited: DeVos Lays Out Her Vision of Federal Role to State Schools Chiefs

The Contender: Nick Melvoin’s Plan for Combating Misinformation — and Unseating LA’s School Board President

Is a Maryland Teachers Union Organizer Shepherding Weak ESSA Accountability Bill?

Principal of the Day: This North Carolina School Leader Makes House Calls to ALL 990 Students

Baltimore’s ‘Happy Teacher Revolution’: Educators Band Together to Help Each Other Thrive in the Classroom

Tennessee Legislators Seek State’s First Voucher Law With Targeted Program for Memphis Kids

New Research May Build Discrimination Case for Widely Used Principals Exam

With No Senate-Confirmed Appointees, Who’s Helping DeVos Run the Education Department?

Wisconsin Targets Wi-Fi, Busing, Teacher Staffing Woes With $30 Million for Underfunded Rural Schools

February 9, 2017

Talking Points

Strapped rural district looks to charge students $25 registration fee. What Gov. @ScottWalker plans to do about

Gov. @ScottWalker proposes $30 million boost for rural Wisconsin schools

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

The purse strings are so tight in Wisconsin’s Wauzeka-Steuben School District that the school board has agreed to charge students $25 to register for classes, hoping the extra $7,000 will help close its budget deficit.

A decline of 10 students per year has put the rural, 286-student school system in a financial crisis. Business education classes — and upper-level Spanish — are set to be conducted through distance learning. The district plans to cut a custodian to save about $50,000 and reduce a band teacher to part-time to save about $24,000. 

On Wednesday, Gov. Scott Walker highlighted the financial difficulties of districts like Wauzeka-Steuben in announcing his $76 billion 2017–19 budget proposal, which includes $11.5 billion in total education funding. The plan would pour more than $30 million into the coffers of rural schools for broadband, transportation and teacher hiring.



Walker is asking the state legislature to approve an overall increase of $649 million for K-12 schools after years of cuts to public education, including $20 million in so-called sparsity aid — unrestricted funds for school systems with fewer than 1,000 students. 
“Wisconsin’s rural schools face unique challenges, such as high transportation costs, lack of dependable access to broadband, and declining enrollment. But we don’t want these challenges to affect the quality of our children’s education,” he said in a radio address ahead of the budget’s release. 
Walker is also looking to make more than $22 million worth of technology upgrades for school districts, including buying mobile hotspots that students could use on buses and take home with them. State officials hope this program will particularly help solve broadband challenges faced by rural communities.


In addition, there is a plan to reimburse districts with fewer than 50 students per square mile if their transportation costs are greater than 150 percent of the state average. Last school year, the reimbursement rate was about 60 percent, Walker’s office said.
And, the governor is looking to develop a program to train teacher aides to become full-time teachers.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Kim Kaukl, executive director of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance. “We have a long way to go to get caught back up from all the years of not being funded.”
Walker — who called for $800 million in cuts to public education when he was first elected in 2011 — appears to be relying on growing state revenue projections to cover the increases in school funding. Critics called those projections overly optimistic.
(The 74: Scott Walker Is In: 9 Things to Know About His Education Record)
It’s not hard to see why he is seeking to boost education funding now, especially in areas where rural voters helped swing the presidential race in Donald Trump’s favor. Walker is up for re-election next year, and his approval rating has been in the 30s and low 40s since 2015, when he was making a bid for the White House.
Republican Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald, however, has already indicated that lawmakers may pare down the governor’s K-12 spending plan to pay for other expenses. “There’s a lot of different priorities,” Fitzgerald told the Wisconsin State Journal. “We should be cautious and wait to see the finance committee work through those dollars to see exactly what can we get support for.”
Meanwhile, municipalities have been passing referendums to increase education spending beyond revenue limits set by the state.
“It signals at the local level, there is recognition that more needs to be spent on education than the state has been providing,” said Dan Rossmiller, the government relations director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
“It’s kind of like our governor has turned over a new leaf,” Rossmiller said. “That’s something I would praise him for.”