Districts react to Walker plan to help rural schools

Governor's plan would invest in technology
Districts react to Walker plan to help rural schools

Gov. Scott Walker said he’ll send more money and resources this year to rural schools, but Democrats and some superintendents say that’s only a start to what needs to be done.

Walker laid out his plan while speaking to leaders at the Wauzeka-Steuben School District Wednesday morning. He’s proposing some $80 million in investments to transportation and sparcity aids, as well as increasing funding for broadband and technology.

“If we make sure that our young people have access to all of those different career paths that are right for them, then what is a challenge becomes a tremendous opportunity to ensure that every person in the state has access to not just a job but a career going forward,” Walker said.

Democrats said they would like to see additional resources and investments.

“A billion dollars have been cut in public schools since 2011 and the proposal he puts forward today is about three percent climbing back toward funding of our schools and addressing issues,” Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said. “I think putting things in perspective is really important.”

Districts like Fennimore would get an increase in sparcity aid under the proposal.

“This is a great start to recognize what we need in rural Wisconsin, but it has to be just a start,” Fennimore Superintendent Jamie Nutter said.

Nutter said more needs to be done to give districts revenue cap relief paired with an increase in state general aid in order to meet greater-than-ever demands on academic achievement.

“When we have a $4 billion budget in education and that is needed to try and meet these demands and then we’re talking less than $100 million in rural initiatives that’s just a great start,” Nutter said.

He did say that a proposal to offer grants to districts to purchase WiFi hot spots for students to use at home would help.

Fennimore Senior Kaitlyn Winkers described how her slow internet affects her schoolwork.

“It’s really hard to load stuff and sometimes I can’t even type on Google docs,” Winkers said. “One time I even typed a paper and it told me it didn’t save.”

She said internet investments would be helpful.

“I could go home after school and sit in my house and do my homework instead of staying here,” Winkers said.

The ideas will all be a part of the governor’s budget that he’ll present to the legislature Feb. 8.

Walker said he’ll announce the full amount of school funding this weekend.