School Supplies

As a teacher, we generally get told that, while we can ask for supplies, we can’t really mandate that we receive them.  Apparently, in addition to indentured servitude, we are indeed expected to tithe for our jobs. As a bleeding-heart liberal who believes in the power of good public education, this isn’t usually something I argue with. I always provide for those with less (or who show up empty-handed).  However, truth be told, this sentiment is utterly ridiculous, if not actually asinine and absurd.

Let’s break down this myth, shall we? First of all, I just purchased Keb’s classroom supplies.  The 4th and 5th grade teachers at his school would like the following items:

  • 2 packages of binder paper (wide-ruled) ($1.50)
  • 2 dozen #2 pencils ($3.84)
  • 1 ream copy paper ($2.50)
  • 1 box Kleenex ($1.98)
  • Glue sticks (4 per student) (50¢)
  • Scissors (74¢)
  • 1 package index cards (44¢)
  • 4 marbled composition books ($1.00)
  • 1 box colored pencils ($1.00)
  • 1 box markers ($1.00)
  • Pencil sharpener (with container for shavings) ($1.00)
  • 2 chisel-tip dry erase markers($1.50)

Needless to say, I have purchased all of that (times 2).  My cost for Keb’s supplies? $16.28.  Could I have saved on this?  You betcha.  In fact, it’s almost embarrassing to admit that 1/4 of the cost came from the pencils.  While I could have opted to purchase the cheaper pencils at 50¢ for 10, I purchased Ticonderoga’s.  They were $3.84 for 24.  I want him to have pencils that last. Had I gone with the cheaper pencils, I’d have spent just at $14.00.  In truth, not that bad for 180 days of education.  It’s something like 7¢ a day.

When I get told parents CAN’T afford school supplies, I get a little weird.  CAN’T or WON’T? I get it when parents have multiple kids.  In fact, that’s why I bought 2 of everything — this way we can donate to the school for a student whose parents really aren’t able to provide.  I get it when a parent is really unemployed and there is nothing extra. These families do need help.  Generally, though, these are the families that bust ass making sure their kids are ready for school.

I don’t get it, though, when the families head to Disney multiple times a year for vacation, each family member has a cell phone with unlimited text plans (usually of the iPhone variety), the kids have multiple hand-held games, the child owns an iTouch if s/he doesn’t have the iPhone, and there is both a Wii and a PSP at home.  Obviously, there is money for something, right?  This is where the Midwest in me gets mad.  This is all about priorities.  I’m thinking you don’t have any and want to push this back onto me or the school.  That irritates me because a) it’s expected, b) there’s no thank you for it, c) it’s entitlement at its worst and d) generally THIS parent is the one complaining about people “abusing” the system and “living off my tax dollars.”  Honestly, if I could bash heads, I would.

That said, there was a woman at Walmart today who was the single mother to four kids and was there doing right by the school and her family.  To her it was a source of pride.  As she said, “With these prices, how are you to say you can’t afford to get what your kids need for school?”

I’ll give you a moment to ponder that.


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