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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Gov. Scott Walker's 2017-19 budget proposal would boost funding by $31 million for rural school districts to help cover gaps related to declining enrollment and other issues. Hurley School District administrator Chris Patritto discusses what this would mean for the northern Wisconsin district.
With the state cutting aid to public schools and capping how much money they can raise through tax increases without voters' approval, school districts around Wisconsin have been seeking more funding through local referendums, especially those in rural areas.
Wisconsin's rural school districts are increasingly relying on asking voters directly for money in response to the decreasing amount they're receiving in state funding over the past half decade.
School districts across Wisconsin started the 2016-17 school year with unfilled vacancies for teaching jobs.