This week, school districts across the state received a record $40.6 million in Library Aid, aid which is disbursed annually to public school libraries across the state in April. This year’s allocation was paid out on Monday (April 25).
Each school district receives an allocation based its reported resident census count and the per child amount. This year’s distribtion is $35.31 (rounded) per census student.
Library Aid, which is generated from investment earnings on the state’s Common School Fund, is to be used by school librarians and libarary 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.
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).
State law (see 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 as per section PI 8.01(2)(h), Wis. Administrative Code.]
Statutory criteria for purchasing using Common School Fund monies include the following reqirements:
- Purchases are limited to library books, instructional materials for school libraries, and school library computers;
- Purchases are for the school library media program; and
- Items are purchased by the district after consultation with the DPI licensed library media specialist (media coordinator).
The statute further provides that all purchases shall 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.
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 estblish by Wisconsin’s Constition at statehood, making it one of the oldest state agencies.
You can find the annual per district and aggregate amounts paid out as Library Aid (dating back to the 1996-97 school year) on this webpage.