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City Budget Includes Additional $23 Million for School Arts Funding

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The Department of Education's budget for arts education is set to get a boost, and that could help some schools rebuild their their programs after years of budget cuts. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

There was a position missing on the staff roster this year at P.S. 41 in Brownsville, and at M.S. 385 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and at many other schools in central Brooklyn.

"We currently do not have an art teacher," said parent coordinator Dexter Paterson. "We haven't had an art teacher for the past, this past school year. There's no funding for an art teacher."

According to City Comptroller Scott Stringer, one out of every seven middle and high schools in the city are without an arts teacher, even though they are required by state law. When you add in elementary schools, the number becomes even higher, one out of five. More than 40 percent of those schools are clustered in either Central Brooklyn or the South Bronx.

"I mean, I wish I had a teacher. I wish," said student Isaiah Fuentes. "I could spend my time there, instead of, you know, walking the hallways. You could go in there and, you know, actually learn something. "

Now, thanks to the city budget agreed to last week, there's an additional $23 million for school arts funding. Now, advocates say, it's up to the city to use it effectively.

"It's critical. It will allow them to address the inequities that are happening in lower-income communities, where many of the schools exist that don't have certified arts teachers on board," said Eric Pryor, executive director of the Center for Arts Education. "It's also going to allow them to invest in additional partnerships with the rich cultural organizations around the city."

That's not always easy. At P.S. 273, the school struggled to form partnerships, which the principal has attributed to its location in East New York, a far trek from where most of the city's arts organizations are based. Three years ago, P.S. 273 also had to cut its art teacher, but in January, the school was able to hire her back.

"It was hard to take when we first saw that Ms. Beckerd wasn't there anymore," said student Tenisha Scott. "And when she came back, we was all like, 'Yay! Ms. Beckerd's back!'"

They celebrated by making art.

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