Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and State Superintendent Jill Underly announced a $52 million investment from Wisconsin’s Common School Fund for school libraries at a press conference Thursday.
The Common School Fund is an annually distributed state funding pool that K-12 public schools use to purchase library books and “[ensure] students have the resources to thrive,” according to Godlewski and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). The fund was enshrined in the original state constitution in 1848 and has often been the sole source of funding for school libraries in Wisconsin since then.
Godlewski and Underly promised to disburse $52 million from the fund to school districts in the next year, a 30% increase from last year's disbursement. Godlewski noted it was a step toward supporting schools in their recovery from shutdowns during the pandemic.
She also thanked school staff for their hard work during the pandemic.
“As the daughter of two public school teachers from Eau Claire, I especially want to thank our school librarians, public school teachers,” Godlewski said. “Thank you for what you do for our kids and for the future of Wisconsin.”
Underly went on to praise the work of school libraries in student education.
"We know that school libraries provide inclusive spaces, spaces that encourage inquiry and provide incredible opportunities for students to grow as readers and as curious learners,” she said.
Underly later introduced Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association president Tina Burkett and American Federation of Teachers Wisconsin Branch President Kim Kohlhass. Each touted positive effects they believe the Common School Fund investment will have on school libraries and students across the state.
Godlewski also described this funding as an “ongoing investment” into public schools in the state, teasing efforts to increase the funds payout to schools in future years. She expressed hopes that her successor will continue this work with the Common School Fund and collaboration with the DPI.
When asked about the future viability of this “aggressive investment,” Godlewski emphasized its impact on K-12 students.
“Our ability to diversify across many different asset classes is going to be a benefit for Wisconsin kids in our public schools,” she said.
Godlewski ended the press conference by highlighting the benefits of collaborating with teachers, schools and libraries to decide where funds should go.
“I think all of these organizations are critical to our kids' future,” she said. “It's important that we work with the folks on the ground who really know what is going on.”
Gabriella Hartlaub is a staff writer for the Daily Cardinal specializing in state politics and life & style reporting.