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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.

Eligibility

A school district is eligible for aid if the school district's membership in the previous school year was no more than 745 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 2018-19 school year, aid is equal to $400 times the eligible school district’s membership. The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) shall also make payments to any school district that received sparsity aid in the previous school year but is not eligible in the current school year due to exceeding the 745 membership criteria, equal to 50 percent of the sparsity aid that district received in the prior year. If funding is insufficient, payments are prorated.

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Program Overview

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 Sparsity Aid if the school district’s membership in the previous school year was no more than 745 and the school district's aid membership in the previous school year divided by the school district's area in square miles is less than 10. Aid membership data used for the purposes of calculating eligibility for Sparsity Aid does not include pupils that participate in the Racine or Wisconsin Parental Choice Programs and the Special Needs Scholarship Program, which is used in the computation for general aid membership.

2015 Wisconsin Act 55 (the 2015-17 biennial budget) eliminated a third criteria requiring that at least 20 percent of the school district’s membership qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch (FRL) under the National School Lunch Program. School districts automatically receive this aid so no claim is necessary.

Aid Computation

Beginning in the 2018-19 school year, aid is equal to $400 times the eligible school district's membership. DPI shall also make payments to any school district that received sparsity aid in the previous school year but is not eligible in the current school year due to exceeding the 745 membership criteria, equal to 50 percent of the sparsity aid that district received in the prior year.

Additionally, for school district consolidations that occur on July 1, 2019 or later (in the school year in which a school district consolidation takes place and each of the subsequent four school years), the consolidated district would receive sparsity aid equal to not less than 50 percent of the aggregate amount of sparsity aid received by the consolidating school districts in the school year prior to the year in which the consolidation takes effect.

If the appropriation is insufficient to pay the full amount calculated, DPI shall prorate the payments among school districts entitled to aid.

Payment Details

Eligible school districts receive payment under this aid program on the third Monday in September. Payments may be delayed in odd-numbered years if the state appropriation for Sparsity Aid has not been determined by the end of August.

WUFAR Coding

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

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.
  • Finally, 2017 Wisconsin Act 141 increased the sparsity aid payment for eligible school districts to $400 per pupil, beginning in the 2018-19 school year.

If the appropriation in any fiscal year is insufficient to pay the full amount of aid for regular eligibility, stop-gap payments or consolidation-related payments, DPI must prorate the payments among all eligible school districts.

Sparsity Aid Details

Funding

Established in 2007 Wisconsin Act 20 (the 2007-09 biennial budget). Effective in the 2018-19 school year, Sparsity Aid increases from $300 per member to $400 per member (distributed in September 2018). An additional $6,454,600 was added to the appropriation under s.20.255(2)(ae), Wis. Stats., to account for the Sparsity Aid payment increase. There are no changes to eligibility criteria.

Appropriations under s. 20.255(2)(ae), Wis. Stats., are as follows:

  • 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 Brian Pahnke (608) 267-9124, Erin Fath (608) 266-2804