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NEWS STORIES

Rural Schools Task Force recommendations expected by AprilSubmitted: 03/09/2014
Lauren Stephenson
5 p.m. Anchor/Reporter
lstephenson@wjfw.com


RHINELANDER - Superintendents at rural schools face challenges like growing poverty, declining enrollment, and high transportation costs.

The State Assembly formed the Rural Schools Task Force to find ways to help.

12 members of the State Assembly make up the task force.

They've traveled to schools around the state for the last six months.

They made two stops in the Northwoods.

The task force turned to superintendents, business leaders, and other community members to learn more about the challenges the schools and communities face.

The state did increase funding for schools in their most recent
budget.

But some rural school superintendents said the $150 per student budget increase this year wasn't enough.

They want the state's funding formula to change.

"Initially when we brought the task force together, the task force was charged to find solutions that didn't necessarily - weren't fiscal. And so what we found is these school districts are doing the best they can with the money they have. And unfortunately, a lot of these solutions will be fiscal. And so that could potentially be pointing to the next budget cycle," said Republican Rep. Rob Swearingen of Rhinelander, the Rural Schools Task Force Chair.

He says high transportation costs, poor broadband service, declining enrollment and lower teacher retention rates will most likely be addressed in the recommendations.

"The report is going to be generated hopefully here in the next week or so by legislative council. And then the task force will get a chance to look at the report and give our final recommendations to Speaker Vos."

The report is expected to come out at the end of this month or the beginning of April.

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 IN OTHER NEWS
What We're Working OnSubmitted: 01/28/2015

- Railroads across Wisconsin could start fining people who walk along railroad tracks. It's an effort to save lives after one of the most deadly years in the state's travel history. Eight people died in train-involved deaths in 2014. Newswatch 12's Karolina Buczek went to the Tomahawk Railway to find out why there are so many accidents and what can be done to stop them.

- Police departments can use social media to help their communities. But if it's used the wrong way it could be dangerous. A traffic app called Waze can be used to warn other drivers about where police are in the area. But some officers are worried it could be used to target police. Newswatch 12s Kaitlyn Howe will have more from a Northcentral Wisconsin police chief about how he feels about the app.

- And find out about the "Snow Days Sweepstakes" put on by the Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce.

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

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MERRILL - A social media app with over 50 million users could be dangerous to local police departments.

The app, called Waze, was designed to allow drivers to alert others about traffic jams and other problems on the road. But some people worry the app could be used to target police.

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LANSING, MI - People will eventually be able to hike or bike from Ironwood, Michigan all the way to Belle Isle Park in Detroit.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced the plans for the trail in 2012, and just this week, the trail got its name. It will be called the Iron Belle Trail.

The Michigan DNR held a three-week trail naming contest this past fall. It got nearly 9,000 entries.

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- More snow might not be the first item on your wish list. But it could get you a weekend getaway. As the snow piles up, so do your chances of winning a Northwoods sweepstakes.

Rhinelander's Chamber of Commerce is running the Snow Day Sweepstakes. Executive Director of Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, Dana DeMet, said the chamber hopes the sweepstakes will offer another way for people to enjoy winter in the Northwoods. It could also help people stay excited about getting more snow this time of year.

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Prep your trees this winterSubmitted: 01/28/2015

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NORTHWOODS - Caring for your trees now could help keep forest healthier this spring and summer. Tree experts say that pruning during the winter poses less risk to your trees than during spring or summer. It will also help the tree maintain growth come spring.

"Folks are going to prune trees, it should be restricted to that period in which trees are dormant," said Steigerwaldt Analysis Operations Director Forrest Gibeault. "That dormancy period essentially is the same time when insects are very inactive and fungal disease is not going to spread."

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ANTIGO - Gamers in Antigo can now head to the library to find video games. The Antigo Public Library added 30 video games to their shelves for the first time this month. Library managers think the games will help get teens through the library's doors.

"[The games] have improved artistically in the last few years quite a bit," explained Library Business Clerk Betsy Pilecky. "It might make [gamers] check out more books and do more research if they come in to look for the video games. They'll see the other books and it'll induce them to check out more."

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WASHINGTON, DC - The director of the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Tomah says he had already taken steps to address reports of overmedication of patients before federal officials announced a review of prescription practices at the Wisconsin facility.

Tomah VA director Mario DeSanctis says his staff began looking into the unusually high rate of opiate prescriptions in 2012. In an interview with the La Crosse Tribune (http://bit.ly/1BxJtoY ) this week, DeSanctis says steps to institute solutions to the problem have already been taken.

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