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Legislative Update

Record amounts of Library Aid to be paid to public schools this year

by | Apr 24, 2023 | Legislative Update Blog, State Issue

The Board of Commissioners of Public Lands has informed the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) that a record $52 million is available for payment to school districts as Library Aid this year.  As a result, aid for school libraries from the Common School Fund in the 2022-23 school year will be $45.38 per census student. 

By comparison, last year, school districts across the state received a then-record $40.6 million in Library Aid, with a per census student distribution equal to about $35.31.

Library Aid is disbursed annually to public school libraries across the state in April.  Each school district receives an allocation based its reported resident census count and the per child amount. 

Library Aid, which is generated from investment earnings on the state’s Common School Fund, is to be used by school librarians and library media specialists primarily to purchase books and technology for students to use in school libraries. Funds are to be used in the same fiscal year as they are received.​​ 

Statutory criteria for purchasing using Common School Fund monies include the following requirements:

  • Purchases are limited to library books, instructional materials for school libraries, school library computers and related software;
  • Purchases are for the school library media program to be used in the school library; and
  • Items are purchased by the district after consultation with the DPI licensed library media specialist (media coordinator).

Purchases are to be made after consultation with the school library media specialist and in alignment with the district’s library media plan.  All Common School Fund purchased materials shall be universally accessible to all students and staff within the respective school building.

Specifically, section 43.70(3), Wis. Statutes, provides that money generated by the Common School Fund and paid to school districts as Library Aid is to be used for the purchase of library books and other instructional materials for school libraries and for the purchase of instructional materials from the state historical society for use in teaching Wisconsin history. In addition, a school district may use Common School Fund distributions to purchase school library computers and related software if the school board consults with the person who supervises the school district’s libraries, and the computers and software are housed in the school library.  [The person who supervises the school libraries is the district’s designated certified library media coordinator per section PI 8.01(2)(h), Wis. Administrative Code.]

The Common School Fund is as old as the state of Wisconsin.  It was established under Wisconsin’s original state constitution and generates the revenues used to pay Library Aid each year to support school libraries. For many school districts, Library Aid is the only dedicated source of funding available for school libraries. 

The framers of our state Constitution established this permanent “school fund” and required that its income be applied exclusively “to the support and maintenance of common [public K-12] schools … and the purchase of suitable libraries and apparatus therefor” (See Wis. Const. art. X sec. 2[1]).

The Common School Fund is one of several funds managed in trust for Wisconsin public education by the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL).  The BCPL, comprised of the state treasurer, state attorney general and secretary of state, was established by Wisconsin’s Constitution at statehood, making it one of the oldest state agencies. 

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