Arts, foreign languages targeted in D65 budget cuts

Abbie Vansickle

Among the programs feeling the effects of the Evanston/Skokie District 65 budget crunch are the middle school foreign language and elementary-level arts programs.

Seen by school board members as areas that could be scaled back, these programs bore the brunt of the budgetary axe. However, many people wonder what the long-term effects of the cuts will be.

“The most significant cut was in the K to 3 drama program,” said school board member Greg Klaiber. “It will have a significant impact. This community is very active in support of the arts. The dilemma we faced was we had to cut something and if we didn’t cut drama, we would have cut art or music.”

According to Klaiber, District 65’s budget cuts amounted to $3.7 million out of the $80 million budget. The elimination of the kindergarten through third grade drama program alone saved $200,000.

The third grade instrumental music program was also cut, saving the schools $27,000 out of $325,000. The middle school’s foreign language department also faced sharp cuts.

Both the French and Spanish programs were eliminated at the sixth grade level, saving the district $192,000, Klaiber said.

The cuts may not seem significant on the surface, but the impact on young people interested in the arts could be substantial, many parents say.

Melissa Green, whose 5-year-old daughter attends a District 65 school, said she is very upset about the decision to cut funding from the arts.

“I’m just amazed that this is happening in Evanston in 2002,” she said. “My daughter loves drama. She cries when she talks about (the program cuts).”

Green, who is a harpist, said she is concerned the priorities of administrators and board members are not in line with her views about education.

“Arts, I think, are a sign of a quality school,” she said. “I become wary because when districts make cuts, they cut the arts.”

Steve Reinfranck, Music ’87, a parent of another kindergartner, said he is also concerned about the cuts. He said the emphasis on the arts was one of the reasons he chose the area.

“There’s a reason why we live in Evanston,” he said. “All the statistics show fine arts make students more organized thinkers.”