Wisconsin Public Television

Series: Challenges To Wisconsin's Rural Schools

Years of budget cuts, increased state funding for private schools, Act 10, an increase in teacher retirements and a decrease in young educators entering the workforce have reshaped the face of public education in Wisconsin over the past decade. But these changes are amplified in rural school districts around the state. Many of Wisconsin's rural counties are slowly losing population, which results in shrinking school enrollment numbers and local tax bases, putting pressure on districts budgets. With a growing teacher shortage nationwide, schools in sparsely populated areas struggle to attract new staff. At the same time, districts across the state are increasingly turning to referendums to fill the funding gap.
 
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A years-long slump in Wisconsin school enrollment is continuing. Sarah Kemp, a researcher with the University of Wisconsin Applied Population Lab explains why — and in which types of school districts — these drops are happening.
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Statewide standardized test stores dropped slightly in Wisconsin in 2019. State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor discusses this decline, and elaborates on the variety of factors that affect the achievement of students and resources of teachers.
Students entering their senior year of high school in the fall of 2019 appear to be among the largest classes in Wisconsin for the foreseeable future.
Declining enrollments and complicated funding streams are making it harder and harder for rural schools to keep the lights on. Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance director Kim Kaukl discusses this seemingly inescapable pattern and shares his own story in Spring Valley.
The funding system for English Language Learner education in Wisconsin schools with are facing challenges in places with high proportions of students needing these services, from urban districts like Green Bay to those in rural communities like Abbotsford.
With an ongoing teacher shortage in Wisconsin, Unified School District of Antigo Superintendent Julie Sprague discusses the challenges faced in that district.
School referendums around Wisconsin have been steadily increasing in the 2010s, particularly years when a general election is held.
School-lunch programs have developed over the course of many decades, and their specific shape and intentions have not always been a matter of political consensus.
In Wisconsin, a desire for quality education and the costs of making such an investment has led to a funding system that can vary significantly by where a school is located.
When you have a small school district and a limited budget, it comes down to choices, according to Kickapoo Area School District district administrator Doug Olsen.