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


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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 IN OTHER NEWS
What We're Working OnSubmitted: 05/02/2016

- Last month, voters in the Unified School District of Antigo rejected a referendum that would have consolidated the district's seven elementary schools. Now the district has to figure out what to do with the teachers, staff and students of one school that will close in June.

- Plus, until now Price County has never had any type of public transportation.  Park Falls hasn't even had a taxi service in years.  That all changed in April with a new bus.

We'll have the details on this story and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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LAONA - Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson faces a tough path to reelection this fall.  The Republican has found himself down by double digits to challenger Russ Feingold in Marquette Law School polls at times.  But Johnson says he'll swing voters when they look at his record of getting work done in Washington, D.C.

Johnson announced his bid for re-election during stops across Wisconsin Monday.  The senator began the day at his Oshkosh-based plastics facility before meeting with state Sen. Tom Tiffany, logging industry and school leaders at a logging site in Laona.  Johnson said Monday was a great day to start his run.

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LINCOLN COUNTY - The Lincoln County Sheriff's Office warns people to clean up their campsites before they leave or face fines. That warning comes after this past weekend, when people left a messy site at the Underdown camping area in Gleason.

The Forestry Department saw people left litter, including a mattress, at the site. The Lincoln County Sheriff's Office says it has a zero-tolerance policy for littering.

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MERRILL - The Merrill Area Public School Board announced Monday that it has received the resignations from its district administrator and assistant district administrator.

Superintendent Wally Leipart and Assistant Superintendent Michele Jahnke submitted their letters of resignation Monday.

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MATTOON - Last month, voters in the Unified School District of Antigo rejected a referendum that would have consolidated the district's seven elementary schools. The referendum would have kept two rural schools�"Mattoon and Crestwood�"open.

But now, Mattoon Elementary School will close in June. The school board voted 5-4 to close the school at the end of this school year.

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RHINELANDER - The Oneida County Humane Society hopes expanding its current facility will help the animals and the public.

OCHS announced plans to expand and improve the animal shelter at its annual Furball fundraiser.

It will use a $100,000 grant the shelter received from PETCO last year to help cover some of those costs. But OCHS will also need to raise more money to cover all the planned improvements.

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ADAMS COUNTY - Update-We now know the names of two men who died in a two car crash near the Wisconsin Dells over the weekend.

The Wisconsin State Patrol tells us 65 year old Timothy Helm and his passenger, 72 year old Frances Chowaniec died at the scene of the crash.

Both men were from Oxford.

24 year old Kolton Coon of Wisconsin Dells was the second driver.

He was taken to a hospital and expected to survive.

The crash happened Saturday afternoon around 2:00 on County Road B north of state highway 23 in Adams County.

Wisconsin State Patrol is still investigating.





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