This weekend, my wife and I took our girls to Target to buy school supplies for my oldest daughter. The Peanut is starting Kindergarten this year and we dutifully took the school supply list (below) to buy the supplies. My wife had picked up the list from Peanut's school and I had not seen it until yesterday.
The longer I looked at the list, the madder I got. Here is the list:
1 black & white composition book
1 pack of yellow pencils
1 pack of colored pencils
1 pack of colored, washable, markers
1 zippered storage container (5" x 8")
1 24-pack of crayons (labeled with child's name)(preferably Crayola)
3 pocket folders (with prongs, 2 yellow and 1 green)
1 pair of child-size scissors (we prefer Fiskar brand-labeled with child's name)
6 large glue sticks
1 box of tissues
1 box of gallon-size ziploc bags
1 pack of stickers (seasonal or character)
4-6 pack of thin dry erase markers (we prefer Expo)
For boys only:
1 box of snack-size ziploc bags
1 bottle of hand sanitizer (not soap)
For girls only:
1 pack of sanitizing wipes
1 box of sandwich-size ziploc bags
All of this, in addition to a new backpack, a new lunchbox and clothes we have yet to buy. Now, I know, I didn't spend a lot of money on these items since Target and Wal-Mart sell all of these items for really cheap.
My beef comes with the items in italics above. More and more, the school supply lists are including materials for the teachers' use in class--supplies that in my mind should be provided by the schools. By providing these supplies for the school, we are paying another school tax--a tax we shouldn't have to pay and a tax that goes up every year and disproporionately affects parents with several children in the schools.
I realize that tissues and sanitizers help reduce the spread of colds and viruses and are thus valuable, arguably necessary, items (although by how much the spread of viruses and bacteria is reduced would be a wonderful study to conduct because I would argue not very much). I still don't know what the ziplocs are for right now, particularly the three different sizes, but I suppose I will find out. Dry erase markers clearly will not be for my daughter's use, since dry erase markers, unless used on a dry erase board, are quite permanent.
I pay a pretty penny in federal, state, and local taxes that support my local schools. I do so grudgingly and did so even when my kids are not in the schools. Why aren't the schools providing tissues, sanitizers and dry erase markers?
For parents with the means to buy supplies, we are expected to buy supplies. For children from families without means, these supplies are either provided free or at reduced cost (although just about everyone can find a quarter for a pack of crayons or pencils). Clearly the issue is not solely about money.
The trend of more and more parental input in supply matters is troubling. As school spending has skyrocketed over the past 30 years or so, it seems as though less and less is being provided by the schools. Parents are being asked to dig into their wallets for items that would reasonably be considered paid for through taxes. Why can't the school buy sanitizing wipes and tissues? Why aren't huge bottles of Purell not available in every classroom courtesy of the county (which would seem to have an interest in healthy kids)? Why can't the county supply dry erase markers? On that score, why does a teacher need 4-6 dry erase markers from every kid (call it 20 in a class)? What are 80-120 dry erase markers for any way?
My question is why do I and every other parent have to provide these supplies?
The answer, this school supply list is a scam, it is a "tax," a means of forcing parents to pay more for the public education system beyond the personal needs of their child and their already hefty tax payments. The school system gets the parents to buy "school supplies" so the system doesn't have to do the heavy lifting of determining what supplies are needed and how to pay for them. The school doesn't have to manage inventory, track useage rates, and all the other matters involved in supply provision and control. If schools need something or the teachers need something, they simply add it to the list of "school supplies" for each pupil and then "tax" each student to provide for the common "good." It doesn't matter to the schools, for there is a steady stream of new parents and new students each year to "tax."
The school supply tax is the perfect governmental scheme of passing responsibility onto the "tax payer" and shirking accountability for the use of the taxes.
Update (8/7/07, 3:16pm): In response to Kimberly's comments. As to the tissues, I too had tissues in my supplies, but they were for my use, not a "tax" levied upon each child. The school provided tissues in my elementary school, so there was no supply tax.
Thanks for shedding light on the ziploc bags. However, it still does not address why the school needs three different sizes and an entire box for each kid. My daughter has had a bag for her pre-school that she never lost in two years.
Kimberly mentions that she bought big bottles of Purell (or a similar product) herself. This is exactly the kind of expense that neither teachers nor the parents should have to bear. I hope that Kimberly claims these expenses on her tax return every year as unreimbursed employment expenses.
While teachers have a tax law out, parents do not. The school supply tax actually increases over time as teh supplies for classroom use actually expand during the child's elementary school education (although they tend to drop in middle and high school).
I know the outlay is not large--perhaps ten dollars for my family, but it is the principle of the whole matter. As school budgets have expanded, school provided supplies on what I would consider basics have actually declined. Furthermore, because these supplies are a tax levied at the beginning of each year, the schools, I am positive, have no data on useage. Does a school or a class really go through 120 dry erase markers in a year? Does it really use 20 bottles of hand sanitizer? What happens to any surplus supplies at the end of the year? There is no data and no accountability for this tax.