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No moratorium on Buffalo charter schools, state says

A moratorium on charter schools in Buffalo won’t happen, but don’t expect the issue to go away.

Both the state Education Department and the State University of New York nixed the request from the Buffalo Board of Education, which asked the state in September to slow down the expansion of charters across the city.

The two are the authorizing entities for charters in New York State.

“The SUNY Board of Trustees does not have the authority to institute a moratorium on charter schools in the City of Buffalo,” H. Carl McCall, chairman of the SUNY Board of Trustees, said in a letter to the School Board.

“However, every new charter school application that we receive for your area will include a comment period,” said McCall, adding that he has been following the issue closely. “I assure you that any commentary that you offer for or against any proposed charter school will be taken into consideration.”

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia gave the School Board a similar response.

“The law does not really allow a moratorium on charter schools,” Elia told The Buffalo News during a recent visit to Niagara Falls.

The request for a moratorium comes as two new charters opened in Buffalo this year, two more are scheduled to open next year and at least two more are in the pipeline, bringing the region’s total to 23.

Changing schoolscape: One in five Buffalo children now attend a charter

One other application for a charter school in Buffalo was recently pulled.

Only New York City has more charters in the state than Buffalo, state data shows. Buffalo, however, has a greater percentage of students attending charters: One in five children who attend a public school in Buffalo go to a charter.

Frustrated by the loss of more students and funding to new charters, the majority of the Buffalo School Board requested that the State University of New York and the state Board of Regents issue a three-year moratorium on charters in the city.

School Board president Barbara Seals Nevergold wasn’t surprised by the state’s answer.

“But certainly for us it’s important to raise the issue and cite the reasons why we asked for a moratorium,” Nevergold said.

“It doesn’t mean we’ve dropped it, per se,” Nevergold said, “but I don’t quite know what the next step is.”

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