Will enrollment battles pay off?

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Greg Peck
February 8, 2013

You can liken the battle between the Beloit and Beloit Turner school districts to an educational arms race. The one with the best arsenal of buildings, programming and quality output could prevail.

As reporter Gina Duwe detailed in last Sunday’s Gazette, for years the smaller Turner district has won the skirmish for students. The Beloit district lost almost 400 students to open enrollment this school year, and 264 of them attend Turner schools. Only 80 kids living in the Turner district attend classes in the bigger district. Turner is educating about 200 more students a year through open enrollment than it loses and has 200 more seeking to join them.

This tug and pull comes at great costs, and some of these involve referendums. The Beloit district convinced residents last spring to invest $70 million in construction projects. Turner will ask voters in an April 2 referendum to spend $28 million for a new high school. Turner officials hope the plan serves future growth within the district but admit that open enrollment serves as an “insurance policy” to help fill the new space.

Gaining and retaining students is critical because each one means thousands of dollars in state aid.

Will all this spending and jockeying for students pay off in the long run? We’ll share our perspectives in our editorial Saturday.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook

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