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Sparsity Aid Program

Program Description

Initially created under the 2007-09 biennial budget (2007 Wisconsin Act 20), the Sparsity Aid program provides additional unrestricted aid to rural school districts with relatively small economies of scale.

Statutory Reference

Section 115.436, Wis. Stats. Sparsity Aid

Funding

Established in 2007 Wisconsin Act 20, Sparsity Aid was created as a sum certain appropriation under s. 20.255(2)(ae), Wis. Stats.

Eligibility

A school district is eligible for aid if the school district's membership in the previous school year was no more than 1,000 and the school district’s membership in the previous school year divided by the school district's area in square miles is less than 10.

Aid Funding

Beginning in the 2021-22 school year, there are two tiers of Sparsity Aid eligibility. The first tier is for districts with membership of no more than 745 and fewer than 10 members per square mile, and aid eligibility is equal to $400 times the eligible school district’s membership. The second tier is for districts with membership between 746 and 1,000 and fewer than 10 members per square mile, with eligibility being $100 per member. Finally, there is a "stop-gap" provision for any school district that received sparsity aid in the previous school year but is not eligible in the current school year, equal to 50 percent of the sparsity aid that district received in the prior year. If funding is insufficient, payments are prorated.

WUFAR Coding

Sparsity Aid revenues are coded to Fund 10, Source 694.

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Program History

Under the 2007-09 biennial budget (2007 Act 20), the sparsity aid program was initially developed for school districts that met the following criteria:

  • Membership in the prior year of no more than 725;
  • a density factor of less than 10 members per square mile; and
  • at least 20 percent of the school district’s membership in the previous school year was eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch (FRL) under the National School Lunch Program.

In the first year of the program, $150 per pupil was awarded to districts that met the membership and sparsity criteria and whose FRL percentage was between 20 percent and 50 percent. Eligible districts whose FRL percentage exceeded 50 percent received $300 per pupil.

Subsequent Program Modifications

The Sparsity Aid program was modified in several ways following inception of the program:

  • Beginning with the 2009-10 school year, eligible school districts received $300 per pupil, prorated if necessary (i.e., no bifurcation of aid payment based on the concentration of FRL-eligible pupils). The 2015-17 biennial budget (2015 Act 55) eliminated the FRL criteria.
  • 2015 Wisconsin Act 305 created an aid entitlement for a school district that had lost eligibility for sparsity aid due to prior year membership exceeding 725, if there were still unencumbered funds in the appropriation after distribution of aid to all districts meeting both the membership and sparsity criteria (first effective for aid payments for the 2015-16 school year).
  • Act 305 further revised the eligibility criteria to include school districts with a membership of no more than 745 (increased from 725) in the previous school year, first effective for aid payments in the 2016-17 school year.
  • The 2017-19 biennial budget (2017 Act 59) replaced the aid entitlement payment created under Act 305 (which required that the appropriation not be fully expended in order to make aid payment to districts that had lost eligibility) with a "stop-gap" measure. School districts will receive 50 percent of the amount received in the previous year if the school district no longer meets the membership eligibility criteria to receive sparsity aid. This change is first effective for aid payments in the 2017-18 school year.
  • Additionally, Act 59 provides that for school district consolidations that occur on or after July 1, 2019, the consolidating districts will receive no less than 50 percent of the aggregate amount of sparsity aid received by the consolidating school districts in the school year prior to the school year in which the consolidation takes effect and in each of the subsequent four school years.
  • 2017 Wisconsin Act 141 increased the sparsity aid payment for eligible school districts to $400 per pupil, beginning in the 2018-19 school year.
  • The 2021-2023 biennial budget (2021 Wisconsin Act 58) added a second tier of eligibility for districts between 746 and 1,000 members.

Sparsity Aid Details

Funding History

  • 2021-22 - $27,962,400
  • 2020-21 - $24,813,900
  • 2019-20 - $24,713,900
  • 2018-19 - $25,213,900
  • 2017-18 - $18,496,200
  • 2016-17 - $17,674,000
  • 2015-16 - $17,674,000
  • 2014-15 - $13,453,300
  • 2013-14 - $13,453,300
  • 2012-13 - $13,453,300
  • 2011-12 - $13,453,300
  • 2010-11 - $14,948,100
  • 2009-10 - $3,517,700
  • 2008-09 - $3,644,600

Resources

A summary worksheet for those districts eligible for Sparsity Aid is available below:

For questions about this information, contact dpifin@dpi.wi.gov (608) 267-9114