October 20, 2014

Public lands are school library lifeline

Commisioners, Evers PHOTO: WRN

A little known state agency was in the spotlight at the Capitol on Tuesday. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is one three members of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. “The general public isn’t very well aware of what this board does, what the commission does,” he said. “It’s one of those rare things in government nowadays that I think is not very objectionable to anyone.”

Created within the state Constitution, the board provides loans to local governments for a variety of needs – and uses the interest to support school libraries across the state. Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers accepted a check for $32.5 million, amounting 26 dollars per pupil for every school district in the state, from Van Hollen and fellow commissioners, state Treasurer Kurt Schuller and Secretary of State Doug LaFollette. “It can be used for acquisition of books, it can be used for on-line learning resources, it can be used for computers that are used in the library,” Evers said. “It is just a tremendous resource.”

Tia Nelson, daughter of environmentalist Senator Gaylord Nelson, serves as the board’s executive director. “We like to think of ourselves as the statewide lender that pays local dividends,” she said. “The Common School Fund is lending money to communities across the state.” The check presented to Evers represents the fourth largest amount ever distributed. “It’s absolutely a lifeline for our schools,” said Evers,