How Much Is Too Much For Back To School Supplies

As most school systems prepare to head back to classes in the coming days, one statement is prevalent regardless which system you attend….school supply lists are becoming a burden for many families.

Why are supply lists becoming so long? Why do parents have to furnish “cleaning/sanitizing” supplies? Who makes these lists? And the ever popular; why am I sending supplies for an entire year when my child will tell me that he/she needs more in less than a month? And lastly, whose fault is it that these lists keep growing?

As a mother of four and a volunteer within our local school system I have either been asked these questions repeatedly or at times asked myself some of these very questions. If you are one of those parents who have never been stressed over the ever increasing demand for school supplies; kudos to you. But, if you’re like the majority of parents who have faced tough economic times, chances are you’ve had to deal with this.  And yes, the lists seem to get longer and longer.

As an advocate for our teachers and staff let me begin by saying that I don’t believe this is their fault.  I have seen firsthand how many of our teachers and para-professionals use their own money to purchase supplies because they know that supply lists already stretch many parents thin.

The average home has at least 2 school age children at any given time(and frequently 3 or more) . That means in addition to lunch plans (which have also increased in cost; not to mention thanks to “nutritional reform” are often unedible), new school clothes (uniforms appear to be cheaper but many districts have not adopted this policy), and numerous other costs that come with every new school year….parents are simply stretched to the breaking point many times before the “supply list” ever comes along.

So who really is to blame for the ever increasing burden placed on parents? That’s a good question and one that I certainly can’t answer in a short article.  But I can tell you that parents should NEVER be asked to send toilet paper, paper towels, soap and other sanitation supplies to school. After all, aren’t these things that we should expect the school to supply? Why is it that every year, bleach and other items needed to keep our schools clean are always in short supply? Is it any wonder that we can’t get rid of common colds or viruses? We depend on custodial staff to “clean up” after our children when needed and yet they remain one of the lowest paid employees within our system and often give extra hours of their own time so that they can do their job to the best of their ability with the supplies they are given.

School supply lists continue to grow in length. The days of little Tommy and Suzie just needing a pencil and notebook paper are long gone. Now they need highlighters, post it notes, 3 ring binders, zip lock bags, hand sanitizer, Kleenex, 36 pencils, red pens, blue pens, calculators that most adults can’t operate, folders of all colors and that’s not even getting into the teacher “wish list” (which, by the way, teachers purchase with THEIR own money in addition to local BOE’s enforcing furlough days upon them). Is it any wonder why our teachers are losing the joy of teaching? Between Common Core, many local boards who have made it clear it doesn’t matter what teachers or parents think,  staff surrendering portions of their salary and not only purchasing their own children’s school supplies but the supplies of other children as well. It’s miraculous at times that they can even teach with so many burdens placed upon them.

Our educational system has been in a downward spiral for some time. Is it our teachers and staffs fault? No, they are doing the best they can with what they have. Is it our local BOE’s fault? Perhaps, to an extent. But the true culprit are our State and National leaders who continue to cut education with gross disregard for what the true “cost” of doing so really is. What can parents do if they really want to help teachers and our system as a whole? Well, that’s an easy answer….GET INVOLVED! Research and elect officials on a local, state and national level that will take a stand for education. And like they say, if you don’t vote then don’t complain and for goodness sake if you can’t be a part of the solution, don’t stand in the way of those who are.

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