Editor's post: The conversation about rural public schools continues
Gary King | Editor | Jan. 22/2014
Luck School District’s plan to ask voters to override state revenue limits and ask for more money over the next five years is becoming a routine matter of business for rural schools across Wisconsin.
There have been 950 such referendums in Wisconsin in the past decade or so, 73 percent of them for schools in rural areas. Only about 50 percent have been approved.
It’s a tricky business meeting the expenses of smaller schools, especially in the face of a myriad of issues that seem to be constantly changing - enrollment, new technology, retention good teachers, transportation costs and in general, finding the money to provide the best educational experience possible.
These are some of the concerns being heard by members of the Rural Schools Task Force at the meetings they held across northern Wisconsin in recent months.
Unfair funding of rural public schools by the state - in comparison to their urban counterparts - has long been on the agenda of politicians, who have either chosen to place it low on their list of priorities or been unable to do anything about it. It’s been on the agenda for nearly 20 years with independent groups like Equity in Funding, and others, attempting to get a foothold with the state Legislature.
Consolidation of schools ranks well below all of the above, in most instances, even though many argue that schools districts are sharing services when possible in the effort not only to cut costs but to improve the educational experience for students.
But actual consolidation of districts is another proposal that rarely gets public support due to the fact that smaller communities believe the school district to be the heart of their identity. Taking that away, some argue, is the first step in creating a ghost town theoretically and economically.
So if money is the issue, small town residents are apparently not arguing with paying a little more to keep their local schools independent.
WisconsinEye is an Internet site that broadcasts Wisconsin government in action, from the floor of the state Capitol and informs state residents of government news in general.
Senior producer Steve Walters interviewed Rural Schools task Force members Rep. Bob Swearingen, R-Rhinelander, and Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo, on Jan. 16. The two legislators gave their views on what they’ve been hearing at meetings at Rhinelander, Eagle River, Antigo, White Lake and Elroy.
It’s an interesting insight into the problems facing rural schools and how to solve them.
Follow the link below to view the interview.