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Rural Schools Hit by Wisconsin Budget Cuts

Rural schools in Wisconsin have faced major cuts as the state has decreased its aid to public schools and invested more in a private school voucher program, according to an article by the Green Bay Press Gazette.

At a panel held in Wisconsin last week, administrators from several rural school districts detailed the cuts they have made, which include eliminating band and chorus and cutting back on special education services. Some administrators said that staff members have assumed more responsibilities and schools are unable to update outdated equipment.

According to a report by the Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Wisconsin has reduced the amount of money it spends on each student by more than $1,000 since 2008, which is the second largest drop of any state. Other rural schools in the state have reported sharing teachers and increasing distance learning opportunities to provide elective classes like Spanish, and required classes like social studies.

Participants at the panel also spoke out against the state's investment in a growing private school voucher program, which pays private school tuition for low-income students. One administrator said this has created "two separate school systems without providing adequate resources." As reported in my colleague Arianna Prothero's blog last month, Wisconsin has spent about $139 million on school vouchers for students to attend private schools in the state that were eventually disqualified from the state's program. Those schools failed to meet state requirements for student safety, auditing, finances, and accreditation, according to a review by the Wisconsin State Journal.

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