Rural Schools Struggle to Keep, Attract Teachers

Declining Enrollment, State Aid Cuts to Blame

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The Mellen and Solon Springs school districts are just a couple of rural areas where education leaders are worried funding is not high enough to provide for all their student needs. 

“The financing of schools in the state, especially rural schools, is broke,” said Mellen and Solon Springs Superintendent, Michael Cox. 

Because of ongoing cuts, the schools are losing a lot of teachers to larger districts. 

“It’s tough to see a good teacher leave a district because you can’t afford to pay the going rates for salaries,” Cox said.

The lack of teachers ends up cutting money from school programs. 

“We have a lot of our departments running with only one person.”

It begs the question: how do you fund you schools than if revenue is not enough?

Cox says one option would be to close the district and consolidate with another school.

Although the financial burdens are having a big impact in smaller schools, Cox still sees a lot of positives about rural districts. 

“Getting to know my teachers and the atmosphere helped.  I felt comfortable asking them questions,” said Mellen kindergarten teacher,  Melanie Nortunan.

Nortunan graduated from Mellen High School and has been a teacher at the school for 10 years. 

“We’re not just a school here.  We are a community,” she said.

Staff members here know doing this job is more than just the site of their paychecks.

“The feeling of our community far outweighs pay,” Nortunan said. 

School district leaders say in a couple of years, if they continue down this road, they will have to ask for a referendum which will put a burden on the taxpayers.

Last year, Solon Springs lost five out of its 20 teachers to Superior.

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