Governor’s Budget Proposes More Resources for Rural Schools

rural schools.jpgAs we have posted before, Governor Walker has proposed targeting aid to rural schools to help them provide a high-quality education despite declining enrollment. In addition to increases in per pupil categorical aid, the governor is proposing in his budget significant increases to both Sparsity Aid and High Cost Transportation Aid. Over the two years of the 2017-19 budget, it allocates an additional $30,572,600 for rural schools under these programs.

Sparsity Aid

Governor: Increase sparsity aid payments by $100 per pupil (from $300 to $400) for school districts with enrollments of 745 or fewer students that meet sparsity aid criteria (less than 10 students per sq. mile).  In addition, add a second tier to the sparsity aid program to provide $100 per pupil to districts with enrollments between 746 and 1,000 students that meet sparsity aid criteria.  Adding in the proposed increase in per pupil categorical aid, districts that qualify for sparsity aid would see a $300 total per pupil increase in 2017-18 and $504 increase in 2018-19.

This increased funding would be sufficient to ensure that sparsity aid payments are not prorated as they have been in the past. Sparsity aid attempts to offset the lack of economies of scale and scope that affect small, rural districts that cover large geographical areas.

Sparsity Aid funding will increase 56% from fiscal year 2016-17 to fiscal year 2017-18 which equates to investments of $9,961,100 in fiscal year 2017-18 and $10,119,500 in fiscal year 2018-19 ($12,328,600 more than was requested by the Department of Public Instruction).

WASB: Support (Resolution 2.16 (a))

High Cost Transportation Aid

Governor: Add $10.4 million to fully fund high-cost transportation aid in both years of the budget.  This additional funding would eliminate the need to prorate these payments.  The 2015-16 reimbursement rate was prorated at roughly 60% of the amount for which qualifying districts were eligible to receive.

Districts are eligible if their per pupil transportation costs exceed 150% of the statewide average and they have fewer than 50 students per sq. mile.

High Cost Transportation Aid will increase 69% equating to $25.4 million over the biennium (matches DPI budget request).  WASB had asked for a second tier of High Cost Transportation Aid to provide some level of reimbursement to districts with costs that are significantly above average but that do not qualify for aid under the current program but this was not included in the governor’s proposal.

WASB: Support (Resolutions 2.16, 2.33)

Pupil Transportation Aid

Governor: Fully fund aidable pupil transportation costs and provide the following increased reimbursement rates (matches DPI budget request):

  • for students transported over 12 miles (from $300 to $365 per pupil)
  • summer school students transported 2 to 5 miles (from $4 to $10 per pupil)
  • summer school students transported over 5 miles (from $6 to $20 per pupil)

WASB: Support (Resolution 2.33)