Sparsity aid distributed to rural school districts

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Gillett, Lena, Suring receive payments

Times Herald Staff

Three Oconto County school districts are among 145 small, sparsely populated school districts sharing $25 million in sparsity aid payments that can be used to offset any costs the district incurs in educating its students. Sparsity aid is paid on the third Monday in September based on the previous year’s school population.

The districts receiving $400 per member sparsity aid payments include Gillett (617 students in 2017-18), which received $246,800; Lena (416), which received $166,400; and Suring (391), which received $156,400.

The aid goes to school districts with populations of less than 745 students and fewer than 10 students per square mile.

“Sparsity aid helps small school districts keep the lights on, the buses running, and staff employed,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said in the news release announcing the disbursement. “Rural school districts face combined challenges of having a sparse student population spread over a large geographic area, fixed costs that don’t go down with declining enrollment, and resident families of modest means that makes referenda to raise local property taxes extremely difficult.”

The Department of Public Instruction’s 2019-21 budget request seeks to revise the sparsity aid program to include any school district that has less than 10 members per square mile even if district membership is more than 745. Based on membership projections, about 85 school districts would be eligible for the second-tier sparsity payment of $100 per member. The budget request would require an additional $9.79 million in each year of the biennium for a total allocation of $70 million for sparsity aid.