Some rural districts that were eligible for additional funding to mitigate high transportation costs receivied minimal aid while several wealthy urban districts received the largest aid amounts, according to a recent article in Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel.
After years of decreases in education funding, Wisconsin lawmakers passed a bill during the last legislative session that aimed to provide about $5 million in extra transportation funds to districts that serve large geographic areas. The formula used to determine which districts would receive the funds was based on current per-student transportation costs, and 128 districts, many of which were rural, were foudn to be eligible for between $2,000 and $180,000 in additional funds. Several wealthy districts received the highest amounts of aid under this formula, while many rural districts that serve large areas received the smallest aid amounts.
The wealthy districts that received funds told the Journal Sentinel that they were eligible because they are “hazardous route districts” with few sidewalks, which means districts are obligated to provide transportation to every student.
Nearly 40 percent of schools in Wisconsin are rural, and many of these schools have already seen funding and enrollment decline in recent years. Several rural schools have been forced to close, while others have expanded distance-learning classes and are sharing teachers to offset cuts in state aid. A report released this spring by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance projected that several rural counties could see school-age populations drop by more than 20 percent in the next two decades.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.