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Common School Fund for Public School District Libraries

Common School Fund Check Presentation
Representatives from the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, the Department of Public Instruction, the Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association, and other school library advocates are pictured with the ceremonial Common School Fund check. 

About the Common School Fund

School Districts receive an annual distribution of earnings from the Common School Fund. These funds (commonly known as Library Aid) are used to purchase library books and other instructional materials. The Common School Fund is the primary, and often only, source of funding for school libraries in Wisconsin. Managed by the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL), the Common School Fund was established by the Wisconsin Constitution in 1848 with the granting of about 1.5 million acres of land for educational purposes. The vast majority of these lands were sold to create the principal for a permanent school fund, with the earnings to be exclusively used to support and maintain common schools (now known as K-12 public schools) and the purchase of suitable libraries and apparatus therefor. The Wisconsin Constitution also provided for the growth of the Common School Fund principal through the addition of clear proceeds of all fines, fees, and forfeitures, including unclaimed property.

Common School Fund Infographic

Common School Fund Infographic thumbnail image


Understanding the Common School Fund is important for many stakeholders, including library media specialists, technology directors, curriculum and instruction directors, building administrators, and those in the business office. This infographic was created to provide an introduction to the Common School Fund and is meant to help guide district-level discussions. It is a starting point and not an all-inclusive reference tool.

Legislation Related to the Common School Fund

The Common School Fund was established with the Wisconsin Constitution where a permanent fund was created for “...the purchase of suitable libraries and apparatus therefor.” (Wisconsin Constitution Article X, Section 2 (1))

Chapter 24: Public Domain and the Trust Funds - 24.76, 24.77, and 24.78 define the Common School Fund, its income source, and its distribution.

Chapter 43: Libraries - 43.70 outlines important dates and spending requirements related to the Common School Fund.

Chapter 121: School Finance - 121.02(1)(h) notes instructional materials, texts, and library services are to reflect the cultural diversity and pluralistic nature of American society.

Administrative Code Chapter PI 8.0: School District Standards - The school district standards for library media services (PI8.01(2)(h)) reference requirements for a licensed media person and the library collection, among other school library program needs.

Administrative Code Chapter PI 9.03: Pupil Nondiscrimination - The Policies section (PI9.03(1)(e)) refers back to Chapter 121 and PI8.01 in the creation of a selection policy for library media materials.

Annual Distribution

Learn more about how allocations are calculated and view recent Common School Fund distribution totals.

Purchasing Guidelines

Common School Fund purchasing guidelines aligned with Wisconsin Statute 43.70(3) and WUFAR coding information are provided. Use these for creating accurate records and making spending decisions.


While the Board of Commissioners or Public Lands manages the Common School Fund and the Department of Public Instruction distributes this funding, districts are accountable for appropriate spending. Learn more about this important responsibility.



If you have additional Common School Fund questions after reviewing the information on these pages, please contact the School Library Media Education Consultant, Monica Treptow (608) 575-6065.