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1-YEAR MORATORIUM ON CHARTER SCHOOLS OK'D <br> BOARD WILL SET UP PANEL TO STUDY DIVISIVE ISSUE

Buffalo's heated battle over charter schools took a dramatic turn Wednesday night when the Board of Education approved a one-year moratorium on district-sponsored charters and established a task force to study the issue.

The 5-4 vote was assured when Central District board member Janique Curry voted in favor of the resolution to impose a moratorium beginning Jan. 1.

An effort to establish a three-year moratorium failed last month when Curry abstained.

"I think we need time to look at the situation," Curry said after the meeting. "I don't see anything wrong with us researching what we have in place."

Catherine Collins, an at-large board member who sponsored the one-year moratorium, said the task force -- which will be named later -- should take a close look at Indiana, where charter schools are funded by the state.

The Buffalo schools have already transferred more than $50 million to charter schools and expect to pay another $38.5 million this school year.

Collins said $3 million of that money is going to out-of-town management firms that provide services for local charter schools.

"We need, somehow, some way, to get control of how we charter these schools," said Ralph Hernandez, the West District board member, who sponsored the initial proposal for a three-year moratorium.

Opponents of the moratorium said it is unfair to groups that are preparing charter school applications but cannot have them completed by Jan. 1.

""It (the moratorium) is like driving down the street, taking your hand off the wheel and hoping the car goes where it's supposed to go," said Jack Coyle, the Park District board member.

At-large board member Christopher Jacobs, who also voted against the moratorium, said the best approach is to study the issue but "not close the door right now to charters."

In addition to Curry, the moratorium was supported by Collins, Hernandez, Betty Jean Grant and Vivian Evans.

e-mail: psimon@buffnews.com

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