A record $40.6 million disbursement will be presented to public schools in every corner of the state to purchase books and technology for students.

Photo of the WEMTA conference

WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. – As chair of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL), State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski today announced that a record $40.6 million will be disbursed to public school libraries across Wisconsin. These funds will be used by librarians and media specialists as they continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and expand offerings for students.

“I’m proud to lead the BCPL, and through our smart investment strategy, deliver a record-breaking distribution of $40.6 million to our public school libraries,” said Treasurer Godlewski. “Our students are essential to our state’s future, and in this challenging environment, it is important we do everything we can to make sure our schools have the resources they need to be successful.”

Joining Treasurer Godlewski in announcing the distribution at the annual Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association (WEMTA) conference in the Wisconsin Dells was the State Superintendent Dr. Jill Underly, Tessa Michaelson Schmidt, the Assistant State Superintendent for the Division for Libraries and Technology, BCPL Chief Investment Officer Richard Sneider, and BCPL Executive Secretary Tom German.

“From kindergarten all the way through my PhD program, school libraries have been an important part of my life, and I know they are just as important to students all across Wisconsin. The Common School Fund is essential to our school libraries, and in recent years, the funding has been incredibly helpful as school libraries have had to innovate to meet students’ needs during the pandemic,” said State Superintendent Dr. Jill Underly. “I’m excited to see how they continue to innovate and to use this funding so that all kids have access to everything they need to learn and grow.”

“For many of Wisconsin’s school libraries, the Common School Fund is the only source of funding for a district’s library media program,” said DPI Assistant State Superintendent and State Librarian Tessa Michaelson Schmidt. “The DPI is grateful for this fund and acknowledges its vital importance in providing all students with access to the accurate, reliable resources they need for their academic, personal, and social growth.”

Using the returns generated from effective investments into Wisconsin communities, the Common School Fund provides crucial funding to Wisconsin’s public school libraries. For over 90% of school libraries, this disbursement is their sole source of funding, meaning that the Common School Fund’s smart management is critical to ensuring Wisconsin students have necessary resources. Public school librarians and media specialists can use the money from the annual distributions to purchase books and technology for libraries so that they can help students learn and grow.

“I am grateful for the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands’ commitment to our public school libraries. As we begin to move beyond the pandemic with still so much uncertainty, knowing that our librarians, media specialists, and students will have the resources they need to be successful provides incredible peace of mind. These funds help our libraries stay relevant and provide safe educational spaces for Wisconsin’s students,” said Raquel Rand, WEMTA President.

To see funding for your school district, click here.

Background

As Chair of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL), State Treasurer Godlewski oversees $1.2 billion in state trust funds, including the Common School Fund, which makes annual distributions that fund books and technology for every school district in the state. As part of her role as board chair, the State Treasurer has prioritized community investment and has integrated Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations into the investment policy. One of her first actions as board chair was to roll back a climate change gag rule which prevented staff from discussing climate at how it impacted investments. 

In today’s low-interest-rate environment and with the uncertainty of the financial market, this level of distribution would not be possible if the Trust Fund remained invested solely in loans and bonds, as required under statute from 1848 through 2015. The updated investment strategy has led to the diversification of the Common School Fund that will continue to pay dividends to Wisconsin schoolchildren for generations to come.

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