I'm an admitted cheapskate. But like most parents, when it comes to my child, money is no object. Last year my daughter started kindergarten and I happily dug into my wallet and bought supplies every month or so for her classroom. The teacher who taught my little girl how to read at least deserved our help buying supplies that the school district couldn't afford, I reasoned, and I was happy to buy the teacher a few gift cards to express our thanks for her hard work.
This year, with first grade about to start, the school district is at it again, and we spent about $50 on supplies that are due on the first day of school for her classroom. Her teacher may ask for more supplies, the school warned parents. We're not alone, as a recent New York Times story reported that parents across the country are being asked to buy cleaning supplies for schools.
What's next, a tip jar for the janitor? A cash register in the principal's office? I'd rather pay an upfront fee at the beginning of the school year than be asked at every opportunity to donate supplies to our public school, or buy from the monthly fundraisers.
As has been the case for years, parents are asked to help with budgetary shortfalls in school districts. Some back-to-school sales are including cleaning supplies among their items, such as Clorox wipes and Kleenex, two supplies my daughter's school asked for. Without these suggested donations, students would either go without or teachers will often go into their own pockets to pay for the supplies. Even with donations, teachers are paying for classroom supplies.
In Malibu, Calif., WalletPop reporter Ann Brenoff reports that in addition to a suggested donation of about $450 to a fundraising campaign for the area's schools, families are asked to buy supplies such as copy paper and hand sanitizers, donate $600 or more -- per child -- to their PTA, "adopt" a classroom for $300, and give the the teacher $50 per child for classroom expenses at the public school.
It seems that every school district in the country is having a school supply drive and is seeking donations. But for all of the complaining of being asked to give money for a public service that was once free and paid for with tax dollars, you'd have to be Scrooge to not see the benefit of giving to a school. Like all parents, I see it every day when I wake up, and could never tell her no for something as basic as pencils.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Parents continually asked to help with school budgets, via supplies