(AP Photo/Scott Bauer, file) Tony Evers
(AP Photo/Scott Bauer, file)

Democratic Governor Tony Evers got an up-close look at a new scholarship and training program designed to encourage the next generation of rural school teachers this month.

The Cambridge, Lodi, Sauk Prairie, and Wisconsin Heights school districts are taking advantage of Workforce Innovation Grants to provide scholarships to students identified as future educators in rural communities. The program offers competitive scholarships to those willing to commit to teaching in a rural community for at least three years.

As school districts across the state face teacher shortages, the state program is designed to address the acute shortage of educators seeking to work in smaller communities. 

Wisconsin Heights School District Administrator Jordan Sinz noted that, “There are a number of rural districts in the state of Wisconsin that just can’t fill positions. You end up just kind of outbid for the next teacher.”

The four initial districts taking advantage of the new grants are working with the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s education program to provide college level courses for high school students intent on pursuing a career in education.

Identifying, training, and hiring K-12 educators for smaller communities is inextricably linked to Wisconsin’s ability to prepare the next generation of the state workforce.

“Teachers are really our state’s first economic developers,” said WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes. “Their work is key to preparing the next generation with the skills needed to succeed in tomorrow’s economy. Training and retaining the best teachers for both rural and urban schools is necessary to building an economy that works for everyone.” 

The education focused program is part of the larger commitment Gov. Evers has made to developing the state’s workforce in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, the Evers administration has invested more than $150 million in Workforce Innovation Grants.