• Picture of rural school house

The times, they are a-changin’. Rural Wisconsin is seeing big changes. Rural Wisconsin is home to almost 44 percent of the state’s 860,000 public school students.

One big change is the decrease in school enrollment. Rural school districts have a 7% decline while non-rural districts have 3%.School Buses

With a decline in student population comes a drop in funding. Every district works hard to make the most of each dollar.

But at the same time, rural school districts are increasing in poverty. More than half the students are eligible for free-and-reduced lunch.

Along with poverty comes the state government taking public school funds and giving them to private schools.

To meet these challenges, rural public schools organized and formed WiRSA (Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance) in 2010. Membership includes 120 school districts and 11 institutions of higher education. Their primary goal is to focus on children first.

WiRSA 2 (2)WiRSA has accomplished much since 2010. It has established working relationships with legislators, DPI and other organizations. They have a strong communication system. They have collected rural best practices which they share. They have influenced the budget and legislative processes.

WiRSA advocates the following for children in rural Wisconsin:

  •  Develop and sustain innovative leadership models for rural schools.
  •  Guarantee high-quality educators by paying adequate salaries and retaining high-quality educators.
  •  Give students the tools to be successful in life by adequately financing a uniform P-16 system across Wisconsin (guaranteed by our    Wisconsin State Constitution).
  •  Use technology to support students. Provide funding for broadband access.
  •  Free school districts from unfunded state mandates and repeal unnecessary mandates.
  •  Allow school districts to establish a flexible learning calendar without restrictions.
  • Invest in public education that works for rural students and provides a stable state funding stream. (Keep local control by maintaining local school boards.)

It looks like Rural School Administrators are doing their part in protecting Quality Education for all our children. Now it is up to the Wisconsin Governor and Legislature to follow suit.

We citizens, parents and grandparents also can do our part by following the issues and publicly promoting a public education system that maintains our rural schools and communities. This is our future, a future that is largely determined by our choices.