Rural Wisconsin Initiative

A package of bills was unveiled today (Wednesday) that aims to bridge the gap between urban and rural Wisconsin.

The “Rural Wisconsin Initiative” was brought forward by 21 Republican legislators who serve rural areas of the state. It includes seven bills that deal with STEM Funding Expansion for Rural Schools; Rural Medical Grant Expansion; Apprenticeship Grants; Youth Apprenticeship Grants; Rural Opportunity Zones; Teacher Loan Forgiveness; and Broadband Expansion Grants. One of the packages primary leaders is State Representative Ed Brooks, who admitted that – like the state as a whole – there seems to be an urban/rural gap in the state legislature.

Brooks said that loan forgiveness program for teachers may not amount to a great deal for individual teachers, but it might be enough to encourage them to consider taking a job in an under-served area. He added that it's based off a program that already exists in the state.

According to Representative Ed Brooks, many young people in rural Wisconsin are under the false impression that they need to move to the city in order to get a good job. He said there are many family supporting jobs available in rural areas, and we need to promote that fact. He cited the Rural Education Cooperative that's been developed in Richland County as one of the real success stories in changing student attitudes toward finding success at home.

One of the other significant bills in the package involves broadband expansion. It would increase grant funds from $1.5 million to $10 million per budget. Brooks said that bridging the technology gap ensures that people in rural areas have the same access to opportunity that people in urban or suburban areas do.

Legislators involved in the Rural Wisconsin Initiative are taking feedback on the package. Additional information about each of the bills, as well as a way to provide responses to each, can be found on the web at RuralWisconsinInitiative.com.