Budget axe ‘scares’ parents - Fear cuts will force doors closed to after-school activity

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The prospect of additional budget cuts for Brooklyn public schools is “scary,” parents say.

“It makes for a very scary environment,” said Laurie Windsor, president of District 20’s Community Education Council (CEC) in Bay Ridge, Fort Hamilton and Borough Park. “Principals, too, when they read about this and hear about this, there has to be some sort of nervousness and some fearfulness about what is coming next. How are you going to deal with this? Are you going to make cuts to your staff? Are you going to make cuts to certain programs? That’s a lot to have hanging over your head.”

Earlier this month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the faltering economy requires immediate budget cuts. He announced that schools will take a 1.3 percent budget cut this year and should expect a 3.5 percent cut next year. He also said the DOE would layoff nearly 500 “non-school-based” personnel in administrative posts.

In the days following, Governor David Paterson announced a proposal for mid-year budget cuts for all schools in the state. If the cuts are approved by the state Assembly and Senate, New York City schools would lose $255 million during the current school year.

Brooklyn parents say the funding cuts will lead to the limiting or elimination of after-school programs and art, music and drama classes. They also fear that schools will let teachers go, thereby increasing class size.

“What might suffer are the activities after school. I’m a little concerned,” said Mario Aguila, president of District 14’s CEC in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

After-school programs, which offer students homework help and exposure to art, music, drama and visual arts, also provide working parents with vital childcare, Aguila said.

Facing budget cuts, schools are limiting their expenses.

“P.S. 250 (on Montrose Avenue in East Williamsburg) had to cut one of their programs,” Aguila said.

The funding cuts have been concerning for parents who want their children to receive a quality education.

“I had a few meetings with my CEC members and some of the parents,” Aguila said. “It caught them by surprise. I felt they should have given them two or three weeks warning, not just come and say this program doesn’t exist anymore.”

Art and music programs will be “the first thing to go,” said Christopher Spinelli, president of District 22’s CEC, which represents schools in Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach and parts of Midwood, Flatbush and Sheepshead Bay.

“Principals are going to be faced with, ‘Am I going to keep an ELL reading coach or am I going to keep a music teacher?’ And in that match-up, I think, unfortunately, the music teacher is going to be set packing,” Spinelli said.

P.S. 207 on Fillmore Avenue in Marine Park, which Spinelli’s son attends, will lose $200,000 under the city’s mid-year cuts.

“Some of these schools are going to cancel these after-school programs,” Spinelli said. “All these enrichment programs that have been developed, there’s just not going to be money for these things.”

Updated 3:43 pm, October 19, 2011
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