Thursday, January 14, 2016

Rural Wisconsin Initiative would expand broadband, improve education and healthcare

Republican lawmakers on Wednesday announced the Rural Wisconsin Initiative, "a series of seven bills lawmakers say are designed to help smaller towns and villages throughout the state grow in the future," Amanda Tyler reports for WEAU in Eau Claire. Bills "would expand broadband internet access; attract teachers to small schools; and provide grants for science, technology, engineering and math programs for local schools."

One of the keys is to provide equal opportunities for students and teachers in rural areas, Tyler writes. Augusta School District administrator Ryan Nelson told Tyler, “Just because we are rural doesn't mean that we provide any less of a quality education for our kids. Any type of legislation that might continue to support the efforts of rural school districts is always a positive move."

Another initiative is to improve healthcare to small towns "by increasing funding for programs that encourage physicians to take residencies in rural hospitals," Tyler writes. Dr. Joan Hamlin, program director at Eau Claire Family Medicine, said the proposal is a step in the right direction but isn't enough to meet the needs of rural areas. She said funds "would need to be higher than the $250,000 being proposed by lawmakers." If all the measures pass, they are expected to cost between $13 to $15 million.

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