An open mind on charter plan

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Let the process unfold with an emphasis on what works for kids.

A GROUP OF CITIZENS, in association with the Beloit 200 organization - which has been so successful at reimagining and rebuilding the city center - is proposing a new public charter school, to be partnered with the University of Wisconsin's Office of Educational Opportunity.

The plan calls for creating, over a five-year period, a 4K-12 institution capable of reaching an enrollment of 700 students. Organizers refer to a "no excuses" approach stressing academic rigor and career preparedness. The new school would be public - not a private choice, or voucher school - and would be open to any Beloit student tuition-free. If more students sought admission than facilities could accommodate, an enrollment lottery would take place.

At this stage it's a proposal, not a done deal. But organizers are serious and fully intend to carry the plan to fruition.

IS THAT A GOOD THING? Not surprisingly, there are mixed thoughts within the School District of Beloit. Some board members surveyed by the newspaper were highly critical, while others took more of a wait and see approach.

We think the latter is a preferable strategy.

It's a natural reaction among the human species to view competition as a threat and, certainly, it can be just that. On the other hand, competition tends to encourage everyone to raise their game. And that's what matters when it comes to education - the net result, or outcome, of how students are performing and preparing to become responsible, productive members of the community.

In that sense, the best part of the charter proposal may be a heightened focus on excellence across the community.

ANOTHER CONSIDERATION worthy of community attention is the concept of educational options for families. Right now, there's the Beloit district, there are schools in surrounding areas like Beloit Turner and Hononegah, or private situations like Rock County Christian or OLA.

A public charter is another option, which may help influence potential new residents to pick Beloit to call home.

So we encourage readers to keep an open mind. Look and listen as the process unfolds. Only one question really matters, after all: What's best for Beloit kids?

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