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Walker pitches sparsity aid in Elmwood

Gov. Scott Walker speaks Nov. 21 to students in Elmwood about his proposed increase for sparsity aid in Wisconsin. Mike Longaecker / RiverTown Multimedia

ELMWOOD — Appeals directly to students seemed to make an impact in pushing his budget's education package, so Gov. Scott Walker went back to that well to draw support for a bill aimed at rural schools.

Legislators balked at the Republican governor's sparsity aid request in his budget, so Walker is making a renewed push for the bill, which he said he convinced some lawmakers to reintroduce.

"We can put a little more pressure on the Legislature to pass that," Walker told students Nov. 21 at Elmwood High School.

Walker's backing a bill pushed by Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, that boosts per-pupil aid from $300 to $400 for districts with fewer than 745 students. Districts with 746 to 1,000 students would receive an additional $100 per pupil, under the proposal. The request comes with a $9.67 million price tag.

Walker said he expects support to build in time to pass the bill by early 2018.

"It's really just making sure the clock doesn't run out," Walker said after the presentation, noting he'll "make it a special point" to address sparsity in his 2018 State of the State speech if it hasn't passed by then.

Democrats are circulating a similar sparsity bill, however, theirs would apply the increased $400 per-pupil payment to districts with up to 1,000 students. The Democratic bill, which carries a $22.78 million price tag, also extends the $100 payment to districts with up to 2,700 students.

Walker said he came to Elmwood last week since it's "doing reasonably well," but also "to highlight a school district that could really successfully use the sparsity" increase.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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