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Rural school report due next month

RHINELANDER, Wis (WSAU-Wheeler News)  The head of a task force that's studying Wisconsin's rural schools says he's surprised at how much they've been stripped to the bare bones. Still, Assembly Republican Rob Swearingen of Rhinelander does not expect his panel to suggest a major financial overhaul when its report comes out during the next month. Instead, you might see proposals to give more state aid to districts with the highest busing costs over large land areas -- or perhaps helping more of the smallest schools get aid in places where state funding is limited due to high property values.

Wisconsin imposed revenue limits on its public schools 20 years ago, as Republicans tried to rein in what they called out-of-control school taxes. They allowed local voters to approve taxes above the revenue limits -- and those referendums have had mixed success over the years.

Swearingen told the Associated Press the task force was looking to find cost savings for rural schools but he found that quote, "Referendums are just tearing these schools apart." Jerry Fiene of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance said 80-percent of revenue cap referendums are held in the smallest districts -- although 80-percent of Wisconsin districts are not rural.