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NEWS STORIES

Rural Schools Task Force holds first public hearingSubmitted: 10/23/2013
Story By Lex Gray

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RHINELANDER - Rural schools face different challenges than schools in suburbs and cities. State legislators say they want to understand what those challenges are, and how they might help.

Local state representative Rob Swearingen chairs the Rural Schools Task Force. Eleven other representatives make up the task force.

Their goal is to create legislation that will help rural schools. Today, the task force listened to superintendents from four local districts.

Their overwhelming message: the school funding formula needs to change. Most Northwoods districts get less state aid because they have high property values.

"It doesn't take into account the ability of our taxpayers to help with the funding of schools," said Kelli Jacobi, superintendent of the School District of Rhinelander. "As our state aid goes down, our taxpayers are expected to pay more, and our taxpayers can't afford to do that."

Swearingen says he hopes house speaker Robin Vos will listen to that. But the funding formula wasn't the purpose of the task force, and it won't be the focus.

"The focus of this group is to make sure the school districts are using the money they have more effectively, so that's part of the discussion. Clearly, the state doesn't have money to just throw at the districts," Swearingen said. "But if we can transfer some of this into categorical aid, something that specifically relates to these rural school problems, maybe we can address some of those financial issues."

Categorical aid could apply to costs like transportation. Three of the four superintendents who spoke today said that would be a big help.

Their districts are geographically large, so they spend huge amounts of money getting kids to and from school. Northland Pines spends $1.3 million every year. Rhinelander spends $1.5 million.

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Foundation sues state over contraception recordsSubmitted: 12/17/2014

MADISON - The Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing the state to obtain records related to a decision not to enforce Wisconsin's contraceptive coverage law.

Gov. Scott Walker's administration announced in July it would no longer enforce the law against employers with religious objections in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruled companies with religious objections such as Hobby Lobby can avoid the contraceptive coverage requirement in the federal health care overhaul law.

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On the Wilderness Act's 50th anniversary, acquaint yourself with pristine areas of northern WisconsinSubmitted: 12/17/2014

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EAGLE RIVER - The first thing you notice in this forest is the silence.

That's the way it was meant to be at Blackjack Springs Wilderness east of Eagle River.

It's a venerable forest, to be sure, but the harvest here isn't timber.

"A Wilderness area," Bob Martini says, "what you're harvesting here feeds the soul."

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Perfect for the holidays- Northwoods woman donates kidney to friend Submitted: 12/17/2014

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SUGAR CAMP - You might find all the joy you need this Christmas between two best friends.

Jean Neumann and Patty Bonack fit together like two pieces of a puzzle.

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Study: Lincoln County professional departments well trained in hazardous materials, volunteer departments need workSubmitted: 12/17/2014

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MERRILL - Would responders in Lincoln County know how to best handle a hazardous material spill in their area?

It might depend on where that spill happens.

A study for a county committee found a big gap in how prepared certain departments might be to handle hazardous materials.

For the most part, professional fire departments and law enforcement are trained well to respond.

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Plea deal in Tomahawk marijuana plant bustSubmitted: 12/17/2014

LINCOLN COUNTY - The second of two people arrested for having 44 marijuana plants reached a plea deal in Lincoln County Court on Wednesday.

Thirty-nine-year-old Jessica Teich pled no contest to a felony for having a drug trafficking place.

She also pled no contest to two misdemeanors for having THC and drug paraphernalia.

The felony charge will be dismissed if Teich successfully completes her 18-month probation.

Tomahawk Police arrested Teich and 34-year-old Jamaal Wilson last April.

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After Wisconsin deer harvest fall, Upper Peninsula numbers plummetSubmitted: 12/17/2014

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UPPER PENINSULA - The deer harvest during the gun season fell more than 15 percent in Wisconsin from a year ago.

In the Upper Peninsula, the drop was even worse.

Early results show the deer harvest in the U.P. was down 30 to 40 percent compared to 2013.

Registrations at some check stations dropped as much as 60 percent during the 16-day season in late November.

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Grant pays for high school students to get welding diplomas while in high school Submitted: 12/17/2014

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PHILLIPS - Some Northwoods companies need more skilled workers.

A local technical college got a grant this year to help train people to fill welding jobs.

The grant pays to send high school students to Northcentral Technical College in Phillips and Wausau.

Ten high school students from Price and Taylor counties travel to NTC in Phillips three days a week.

"They will be graduating from Northcentral Technical College with their degree in Gas Metal Arc Welding and it will probably be about a week before they graduate high school," says NTC Phillips Dean Bobbi Damrow.

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