No budget cuts for Canarsie and East Flatbush schools, parents say

Parents in Canarsie and East Flatbush fear the latest round of public school budget cuts will devastate art and music programs.

“When the cuts come down, this is the first area of attack. It’s a vicious cycle when monies are routinely circled and flipped back and forth,” said James Dandridge, president of School District 18’s Community Education Council (CEC), which represents Canarsie and East Flatbush. “We know the mayor and chancellor are geared toward impressing everyone with graphs and charts and test results, but we believe in educating the whole child.”

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced the latest round of cuts — schools will lose one percent of their budget, for a citywide total of $79 million — to be implemented by the end of the month.

The principals’ union asserted, “Principals will probably be forced to cut what are popularly considered ‘extras,’ but these aren’t extras at all. They will start to get rid of all cultural subjects like music, creative writing, theater, poetry, dance, visual arts, which are often the things that make children want to go to school and the things that have always humanized us. They will probably be forced to give up sports, which help keep students healthy and fit.”

Dandridge wondered what the ultimate effect of the cuts will be.

“I.S. 285 is a music and arts school,” Dandridge said of the Beverly Road school. “With budget cuts, you’re cutting the heart out of our schools.”

“A lot of the most famous people to graduate from New York City public schools are actors and musicians,” he added. “Can you imagine what would have happened if they didn’t have the opportunity to express themselves?”

As the economy falters, more budget cuts may be on the horizon.

In a letter to school principals, Klein wrote, “I wish I could say this is the last time I’ll have to ask you to make these hard choices, but our budget outlook remains uncertain.”