Representative John Nygren, R-Marinette, Gov. Scott Walker and I recently announced a renewed effort to increase sparsity aid funding for rural schools and to increase the revenue limit ceiling for low-spending school districts. Senate Bill 690 was introduced on Jan. 10 with strong support in both houses of the legislature.
SB 690 will increase sparsity aid from $300 to $400 per pupil for the 2018-19 school year, an estimated $6 million boost for rural schools. In addition, this proposal also increases the low revenue ceiling from $9,100 to $9,400 for the 2018-19 school year, with the low revenue ceiling rising by $100 per year thereafter up to $9,800 by the 2022-23 school year.
You may think you are experiencing déjà vu. But this is something new. This legislation combines an increase to sparsity aid with increasing the low-revenue ceiling to provide needed relief for more rural schools and is a result of collaboration among legislators with differing districts. Legislators throughout Wisconsin came together to work on this new proposal and I am encouraged by our group effort.
As you know, I have consistently championed increases to the sparsity aid program, as well as increased funding for K-12 public education overall. You may remember that I spoke out against making changes to the governor’s increase for sparsity aid during the budget process and introduced legislation to restore these changes in October. SB 690 has a similar impact on school districts throughout the state with new benefits for low-spending school districts.
I was honored to join Gov. Walker at the Potosi School District Jan. 11 to make this announcement. According to Potosi School District superintendent Ron Saari, it is the first time a governor has ever visited the Potosi schools. It was a unique and inspiring opportunity to share this news directly with a school that will benefit from the bill.
SB 690 enhances the historic $11.5 billion investment in K-12 funding in the biennial budget by providing additional support for rural schools. Sparsity aid is an important funding program that helps 21 of the 33 school districts in the 17th Senate District with fewer than 745 students and fewer than 10 pupils per square mile. The change to the low revenue ceiling will impact six school districts in the 17th Senate District as well, including one district that does not qualify for sparsity aid, if these school districts decide to increase their limit. This is a completely local decision. Overall, there is the potential for almost a $1.5 million annual impact in the 17th Senate District from these enhancements to the sparsity aid and low revenue limit.
I will continue the hard work on this issue and will be connecting with all of my colleagues in the Senate to encourage their approval of this legislation. It is not a slam dunk, but the compromise and expansion of this bill gives me tools to continue working with other members toward our mutual goal of serving our districts and the families of Wisconsin. I am optimistic that we will be able to come together on this issue.
As I continue my work on your behalf, I encourage you to connect with me! Please visit my website legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/17/marklein. Every press release, column and E-Update is archived here for you. I would also encourage you to subscribe to my weekly E-Update by sending an email to Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov. Do not hesitate to call 800-978-8008 if you have input, ideas or need assistance with any state-related matters.
Republican Howard Marklein, Spring Green, represents the 17th state Senate District.