Charter proposal raises concerns

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BELOIT - Some School District of Beloit Board of Education members voiced concerns over plans by the Beloit 200 Education Subcommittee to form a new public charter school to open in 2021, pending state approval.

In an interview Wednesday representatives of the subcommittee told the Beloit Daily News they are in the process of applying for a school designed to house 4K through 12th grades over a five-year rollout. The school would be devoted to academic rigor and career readiness. The charter would be a public school - not a private choice, or voucher, school - and would be free for all families regardless of income.

However, some School District of Beloit board members said the new charter could divert resources away from the district as new leadership works to transform its schools.

"I am disappointed that Beloit 200 would rather divide our community than work with the talented and dedicated teachers and staff we already have in our district. I have not heard ideas or solutions to increase student achievement in our school district from anyone in that group," said board member Megan Miller.

Miller said charter schools disproportionately take funding from all community children.

"Areas with private charters often have to resort to referendums, which would force Beloit taxpayers to shoulder the burden of their decision to serve a smaller group of students," Miller said. "We are stronger together and it would better serve our whole community if Beloit 200 would join forces and share solutions and resources to help all students instead of weakening our public schools. I would welcome that partnership."

Board member Kyle Larsen said families should have options, but he's concerned about what it could mean financially for the district and the amount of funds it could divert. Larsen said new Superintendent Stanley Munro has plans underway to increase career readiness and if more funds are going to the charter, it could make the district's vision for career preparedness more difficult to come to life.

For example, Larsen said part of Munno's reconfiguration includes one seventh and eighth grade school. Under Munro's proposal, Laresen said the seventh and eighth grades would have more labs and advanced content courses so kids can head to high school ready to take advanced placement courses so they can obtain more college credit.

"Everything the district is doing is trying to increase career readiness and help students be participants in our society. Students leaving and going to the charter makes it more difficult for the district to supply those resources and programs," Larsen said.

Larsen said he wishes those behind the charter would have waited to see Munro's vision unfold as opposed to moving ahead with the school right now.

"If their purpose is career readiness, there are other ways to assist the district," Larsen said.

However, board member Jeff Klett said his personal opinion is that charter schools are another option.

"All kids learn in different ways, and options aren't a bad thing. I'm a firm believer in public education, but the world is changing," Klett said.

Board of Education President Pam Charles said the district would prefer the community pull together and join efforts to deliver an excellent education to the 7,000 students that live in Beloit, but competition can be good.

"Beloit School District offers so many programs that are not offered in a small school - dozens of advanced placement courses, career and technical education, dual language offerings, sports, arts, and clubs. It's a place where each child can explore interests, develop their talents, and reach their greatest potential. The next couple of years will be exciting for us, and our focus will remain on the success of our students, delivering the best education possible to each," Charles said.

Calls to board members John Wong, Wendy Sanchez and Stephanie Jacobs were not returned as of press time.

Superintendent Munro emailed the following statement regarding his thoughts on the charter: "The School District of Beloit is committed to the success of our dedicated teachers, students and families in our district. Our mission, values and goals support the academic success of our students. Our focus is on the work that lies ahead including high academic expectations, quality instructional practices, viable curriculum, engagement of our scholars, and an emphasis on 21st century learning that highlights critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication. We are appreciative of our community partners who continue to support the School District of Beloit and our vision to prepare and inspire every student to succeed in life and contribute to an ever-changing world."

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