The Speaker’s Rural Schools Task Force had their last set of hearings on February 26th when they visited the Benton and Cuba City School Districts. A report from the task force is expected later this month or in April. The report will likely highlight the financial constraints that many rural school districts face due to limits on the amount of money they can levy each year and repeated failed referendums. The chair of the task force, Representative Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander) has said that recommendations will likely look at high transportation costs, poor broadband service, declining enrollment and low teacher retention rates.
There is not expected to be any action taken as a result of the report during the remainder of this legislative session as it is wrapping up. A couple of bills have recently been introduced by members of the task force including Assembly Bill 817 which creates a rural schools grant program to assist teachers in repaying student loans and Assembly Bill 834 which loosens the requirements for school districts to be eligible for sparsity aid.
Wisconsin State Journal: Rural schools ask Wis. lawmakers for more cash
Hudson Star-Observer: Task force unlikely to suggest sweeping changes for rural school funding
Marshfield News Herald: Decreasing enrollment at heart of rural school challenges for several Clark County districts