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Sprawling school districts get small aid boost
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The Antigo, Elcho and White Lake school districts are among 128 statewide sharing in a new $5 million pot of transportation aid.

The Department of Public Instruction is distributing the funds to districts with above- average student transportation costs under the first year of the high cost transportation categorical aid. Districts are eligible for high cost transportation aid if their transportation costs exceed 150 percent of the statewide average cost per member.

Under the program, the sprawling Antigo school district, at 537 square miles, will receive $23,153. Elcho, which covers over 300 square miles, will get $47,708, and White Lake, 188 square miles, $6,917.

“This is new aid for us,” Elcho-White Lake Administrator Bill Fisher said. “It will certainly help, but in no way does it cover the costs we have for transportation in either of the schools.”

The new categorical aid was created by a collaborative effort between State Superintendent Tony Evers and Senator Luther Olsen, as well as the State Superintendent’s Rural Advisory Council, as a way to reduce disproportionately high transportation expenses. Evers recommended the aid as part of his 2013-15 budget request and it was approved by the full Legislature and governor as part of the 2013-15 biennial budget.

“The state must continue to recognize the ever-changing needs of school districts,” Evers said. “Addressing the burden that transportation costs were putting on district budgets helps schools focus their resources on student learning. This is a good first step and I look forward to working on additional school funding issues, including those outlined as part of my Agenda 2017 initiative.”

State law requires that school districts provide transportation to public and private school students if the student resides more than two miles from the nearest public school they are entitled to attend. As transportation related expenses have risen, commensurate funding levels have not, putting pressure on districts with large transportation budgets.

Districts meeting the statutory criteria submitted $14.84 million in eligible costs resulting in the $5 million fund being prorated at roughly 33 percent. Funding levels are based on audited data and enrollment counts from the 2012-13 school year.

Of the districts granted funds, nine received over $100,000; 30 received between $50,000 and $100,000; 73 received between $5,000 and $50,000; and 16 received less than $5,000.
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A Lamers school bus transported students to Elcho summer school on Thursday morning.
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ANTIGO DAILY
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