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Educators skeptical of small-schools report

UNDATED (WSAU-Wheeler News) Small-town school leaders say a state task force probably won't go far enough to meet their most critical needs -- like keeping their best teachers. The panel is expected to announce its recommendations in the next month.

Chairman Rob Swearingen says he knows that funding is a severe problem -- especially in places where voters keep refusing to raise taxes beyond state-mandated revenue limits. But Swearingen, an Assembly Republican from Rhinelander, says special funding for rural schools is not in the cards for now. He says the group will most likely recommend things like higher state aid for rural busing costs, more access to high-speed Internet service, and incentives like forgiving loans so good teachers can afford to stay in small towns.

Recent media reports said the Act-10 collective bargaining limits have created a system in which smaller school districts set smaller teacher salaries. Royall Superintendent Mark Gruen says it drives away the best-and-brightest to bigger cities that can afford to pay more. He said the governor and Legislature need to create uniform salaries statewide. Swearingen expects more substantive action in next year's legislative session.