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MADISON - A proposal to give Wisconsin's most rural schools nearly $7 million more and allow low-spending districts to raise property taxes without a vote has cleared a key legislative hurdle.

The budget-writing Joint Finance Committee on Thursday, Feb. 8, voted unanimously to pass the bill that's backed by Gov. Scott Walker.

The measure would increase the maximum that qualifying low-spending districts can spend on a combination of local property taxes and state aid per student from $9,100 to $9,400 for the 2018-2019 school year.

The state Department of Public Instruction says 123 districts would qualify next year and 200 would qualify over the next six years.

It would also increase by $6.5 million the amount of sparsity aid available to 144 qualifying schools that have 745 or fewer students and membership density of less than 10 students per square mile.

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