7/20/2019 7:30:00 AM SDR expected to see increase in state aid
School District of Rhinelander superintendent Kelli Jacobi had two pieces of positive news to share with the Board of Education Monday evening - Rhinelander High School's graduation rate has reached 97 percent and the district is expected to see an estimated 32 percent increase in state aid for the upcoming school year under the 2019-21 biannual budget signed by Gov. Tony Evers July 3.
"These are just estimates, and it's not like we're going to get a whole bunch more money," Jacobi said. "More will be coming from the state, which means the taxpayers won't have to provide as much, it's that kind of balancing act. But according to the estimates, and they become final Oct. 15, it will go up 32 percent, which is a significant amount of almost $1.5 million."
Jacobi said not all school districts will see the increase that Rhinelander is expecting.
"Of the state's 421 school districts, 59 percent - 248 - are estimated to receive more general education aid in '19-'20, 40 percent are expected to receive less and five districts will remain the same," Jacobi said. "So what happened to make this happen didn't happen in all districts."
Jacobi said she thinks that the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction was looking for ways to help districts like Rhinelander which have high property values but low incomes.
She said that the administration should have more information about the increase in time for the August board meeting.
"It was very good news, but it's just an estimate," Jacobi said. "It is not a done deal."
According to the Wisconsin Department of Administration, the 2019-21 budget includes the following provisions related to education:
Doubles state support for school mental health programs over the biennium to provide increased access to professionals to assist children in our schools in need.
Provides nearly $330 million, the largest nominal dollar increase in state general aid since the 2005-07 biennium.
Increases state special education categorical aid funding for the first time since 2008-09 by providing over $95 million over the biennium in additional state support.
Increases per pupil state categorical aids by nearly $100 million over the biennium. (Added by partial veto)
Increases high cost transportation aid for rural districts by $1.6 million over the biennium to raise reimbursement rates to 90 percent of eligible costs.
RHS grad rate pegged at 97 percent
The estimated aid increase was only part of Jacobi's good news for the board.
"I want to share some news that Shane (Dornfeld, RHS principal) shared with me that is really, really exciting," Jacobi said. "And I need to make sure that I am thanking all of the people involved in this, and the school board is definitely a huge part of this. Our graduation rate this year for RHS was 97 percent."
This news elicited a few "wows" from the board followed by a hearty round of applause.
"It's really all Shane and his team," Jacobi added. "The school board, the teachers, the teaching assistants, it's everyone's accomplishment."
Jacobi pointed out the increase in the graduation rate can be traced to a program the board approved that put additional supports in place to help struggling students and meet their learning needs and styles.
"We have Hodag Connections where older kids feel more comfortable," she said. "Hodag Connections is the storefront down on Brown Street, and just all of the things that you have approved and we have been working on as a board have really paid off."
While many of the programs may be less than a year old, they are already paying dividends, Jacobi added.
"We plan on continuing working on all of these things towards the beginning of seeing that cultural shift at the high school level," she said.
Jacobi told the board that in 2018, the graduation rate was 94 percent. The figure was 88 percent in 2017.
Board vice president Judy Conlin agreed that the programs Jacobi cited are making a difference over the "deliver the content and if they get it, good and if they don't, they don't" approach.
Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at jamie@rivernews online.com.
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