Who is Paying for Your Child's School Supplies?
I remember rolling my shopping cart through the grocery store with my son in tow. I was throwing in paper doilies from the bakery department. I had already thrown in a dozen glue sticks. 10 tubes of glitter. And 36 shot glasses.
No, I don’t have a drinking problem. That I know of. But they were on sale for 50 cents and I needed 36 because I had 36 5th graders that year and they were all going to come together (in my imagination) as these very sweet Mother’s Day gifts (the glasses were for mom to put rings and earrings, etc.), and we were going to write beautiful Mom’s Day poems, and I was really, really excited that the shot glasses were on sale, because the whole 36 Mother’s Day presents would only set me personally back about $40 bucks which was a whole lot less than the Mother’s Day presents we made last year.
Now, the science projects were always a little more expensive. And I wanted my kids to have the poster board for the displays, but I figured they could still have plenty of writing space if we cut the poster board in half, and that would save me half the cost.
The classroom set of Old Yeller paperbacks was my most ambitious project. I rummaged though every thrift shop and yard sale, and actually came up with 18 copies, most around a quarter and most with almost every page still attached.
I got used to pulling out my wallet for my school kids. The same shopping trip for the shot glasses, my own little boy asked if he could have something-or-another. I remember telling him, “Sweetie, we can’t afford that.”
I remember it after all these years, because I happen to throw the classroom set of doilies in the cart just as I was telling him to put his something-or-another back. I always got my school kids things I wanted them to have. It was my decision. I knew that I had a measly supply budget that barely covered paper and pencils and didn’t cover science and art materials.
Sometimes I’d send a note home to parents asking if they could donate crayons or markers. At my school, teachers could not require parents to provide materials. But random acts of charity were ok. Most parents were happy to help.
You should see the list of my friends today. They ask parents for crayons and markers. And Kleenex. And cleanser for the classroom sink. And toilet paper.
It’s dark days for many districts. Tough times are even tougher. Teachers are trying to fill the material and supply gap as best they can. Some research shows that the average teacher in a public school will spend close to $500 a year on students. (Others spend even more)
At the same time, it’s harder and harder for some parents to pitch in. Some parents remain out of work. They’re fighting to put a meal on the table. They don’t have anything extra to send to school.
But we’re all trying to stretch that school dollar. Unless you live in what appears to be a School District Parallel Universe.
An amazing thing happened in August. Against all odds – with thousands upon thousands of teachers and school support professionals and parents calling, writing, visiting their members of Congress – The House of Representatives was called back from summer break for an emergency vote on an education jobs bill that would give districts millions of federal dollars in order to call back laid-off educators.
The Senate and the House and the President in a rare bipartisan show of common sense recognized that without their teachers and support staff waiting at the school door, class size would mushroom and entire programs would be eliminated. They recognized that a 1st grader only gets one year to be a first grader. A high school senior only gets one year to be a high school senior. Making sure districts had emergency funds to bring back the educators who provided essential services to their students was a national priority.
Congress did the right thing and took a political risk. Teachers and parents are doing the right thing in making personal sacrifices for the good of their children. There are governors and superintendents who took the money and immediately did the right thing calling back laid off school staff. Class sizes will be smaller. Programs will be re-instated.
But, there are others who took the money… and immediately declared they would wait and see what things looked like next year before calling back the laid off teachers and support professionals.
Someone explain to me how some politicians and bureaucrats refuse to do the right thing by recalling the laid off teachers and school support staff. Someone explain why they would sit on emergency funding that was given to them to make sure kids have the teachers and support staff they need.
I have seen amazing people make amazing personal sacrifices in these tough times. No one is asking for “wait and see” bureaucrats to make an amazing personal sacrifice. No one is asking them to do what teachers and parents do and pay for what students need out of their household budgets.
We’re asking them to spend the emergency education jobs funding for what it was intended. Now.
We’re asking them to call back the teachers and education support staff our students need. Now.
We’re asking them to do the right thing. Now.