School budget cut fears

Brooklyn public schools can weather budget cuts — but only for so long, according to a local parent leader.

“District 22 schools have historically exceeded expectations with limited resources. But at a certain point, I can see it having an effect on the quality of education that we’re going to provide to children,” said Christopher Spinelli, president of School District 22’s Community Education Council (CEC), which represents Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach and parts of Midwood, Flatbush and Sheepshead Bay.

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 cuts are especially disappointing to District 22 since many schools recently began receiving Title One funding for special programs.

“We gave them Title One money and I was hopeful that this was something that was going to be able to finally turn around the funding formulas, but then they got budget cuts,” Spinelli said.

Educators fear the latest round of cuts will devastate art and music programs.

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.”

City Councilmember Domenic Recchia said the arts can’t be the first to go.

“There are countless reports and studies that say students exposed to the arts do better at reading, writing and math. I understand the state of the economy and that tough decisions need to be made, but we can’t make those decisions to the detriment of our school children,” he said. “I encourage principals to take a long, hard look at their budgets, and come up with cuts that don’t affect arts education programs.”

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.”