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The Ever-Expanding School Supplies List

By sandymaple |

If the the back-to-school supplies section of your local store looks a little weird this year, blame it on budget cuts.  As schools struggle to make ends meet, they are turning to parents to fill in the gaps by asking them to purchase items not traditionally considered school supplies.  Along with pencils, notebooks and glue, we are being asked to supply cleaning products, paper plates, baby wipes and much more.

The school supplies lists our kids bring home have been expanding for some time now, but this year it seems to have reached a whole new level.  Not only are parents being asked to purchase far more paper, pencils and markers than one kid could possibly use in a school year, they are being asked to provide many of the things schools used to provide for teachers.  But if we don’t buy the computer paper, sandwich bags, liquid hand soap and cleaning supplies, who will?

The teachers, of course.  But while we certainly don’t expect them to bear that financial burden, what about parents who can’t bear it either? As my colleague Paula Bernstein points out, what is an annoying extra expense for some families can be downright impossible for others to manage.

Last year, I had to bring in two big bags of supplies for my kids. We must have spent at least $100. Laying out the cash was a drag for us, but for other families, it’s a major financial hardship.

I don’t suppose they’ll send your kid home if she shows up on the first day of school without toilet paper and hand sanitizer.  But if you are looking for bargains on such things, they are out there. Retailers know exactly what parents are being asked to provide and many of them are putting those very items on sale.

Anything surprising on your own child’s school supply list this year?

Image: Heather Elias/Flickr

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0 thoughts on “The Ever-Expanding School Supplies List

  1. Manjari says:

    When I taught Kindergarten beginning around 2001, we asked parents to send in tissues, hand soap and paper towels. Maybe 3 or 4 parents sent anything in at all, and we ended up buying everything. I think I spent more than $400 the first year, and that was with another teacher in the same room doing the same thing. I can see how parents would see the request to be unusual, but there were more than 30 of them each year and only two of us to bear the cost.

  2. jenny tries too hard says:

    The weirdest one was my boys’ first kindergarten list…the usual supplies plus large bottles of hand soap, printer-copier paper and TENNIS BALLS. No, the PE department wasn’t suffering, they wanted parents to cut a giant X in the tennis balls so the teacher could put them on the end of the chairs because the noise of the chairs bothered her.

  3. ann05 says:

    Hand sanitizer doesn’t do anything to prevent diseases, so I wouldn’t send that in because it’s simply a waste of money. Tennis balls I would send, because if it preserves the teacher’s sanity so she can be calmer? Good deal. I imagine you could send in used ones, and probably even score some flat ones for free from a dog park or a tennis facility.

  4. Lisa says:

    Jenny, it’s not just the noise bothering the teacher… it distracts other students and damages the floor.

  5. Lisa says:

    Every year I buy folders, notebooks, paper, paper cups, plates, napkins, tissues, markers, colored pencils, rulers, glue sticks and more. Why? Because I can’t count on parents keeping their kids supplied and I can’t count on kids being organized. If I buy it, we have the materials on hand and no excuses.

    But I’m not buying for one student… some items I can get away with just a class set and some I need to buy for each student… 120 to 150. I rely heavily on back to school sales which have SUCKED this year.

  6. Laure68 says:

    My son is still in preschool, but I did talk to one parent who told me that every year she goes to Costco and gets a ton of stuff to give to the teacher. She figures she can afford it, and it helps out the kids who cannot and the teacher tool I think this is a nice idea for those of us who can afford it.

  7. Gerry Nance says:

    I think I’d rather send school supplies than pay taxes, because you see and control how your money is spent. School Districts should offer parents the option of paying a tax, buying supplies, or home schooling their children. If you don’t have children in school, then you should not pay taxes for educating children. The children of illegal aliens should be deported with their parents.

  8. Gerry Nance says:

    As a frequent customer of an office supply store, I’ve seen many teachers pay out-of-pocket for copies and supplies to keep their classrooms educating our children. It is shameful the federal government makes local public schools educate illegal aliens.

  9. michelle says:

    OK, Gerry Nance, by that “logic,” then when these children grow up they should not pay taxes to support anyone’s Social Security or Medicare. Old people don’t deserve handouts, am I right? :)

  10. michelle says:

    Also, there already exist school systems that are totally fee-based (contributions rather than taxes). So you can actually see right now how your little experiment would turn out. All these school systems are in third-world countries where literacy is 20%, teachers go unpaid and no one can afford to be educated past 3rd grade. There you go. That’s also America’s future. Good thing we have people like you to make sure America gets a 3rd world education system as soon as possible.

  11. bob says:

    I used to work at an office (at a fortune 500 company, btw) that wouldn’t budget for writing utensils, so we had to buy our own pens in order to work, or pick something grimy and chewed-on from a recycle box in the back. How is it okay to pass on the cost of doing business to your employees/teachers? They aren’t private contractors!
    And if we’re going to ask families with school-age children to pay more to fund schools than the rest of the population, then it should be done in a manner consistent with the property tax system: raise their property tax rate while their kids are in school. That spreads the burden in rough accordance to means and it allows schools to get more for the money by buying in bulk for the entire district.

  12. [...] The Ever-Expanding Schools Supplies List [...]

  13. Amy says:

    Michelle – I think you missed the ILLEGAL part of what Gerry was saying. ILLEGAL is ILLEGAL! Why are Americans the only ones expected to follow laws? Just wondering!?!

  14. Amy says:

    Oh, and Social Security is not a handout. Legals pay into it so it is there for them after retirement. Just FYI.

  15. michelle says:

    Um no Amy, didn’t miss it, but I certainly didn’t think anyone else was ignorant enough to take it seriously. There will always be illegal immigrants in rich countries (and btw illegal immigrants pay into Soc Secur too, without getting anything out). Is your solution for their children to deny them an education? I find that you people substitute vindictiveness for practicality. People who scream about ILLEGALS never come up with any practical solutions, probably because they just want to blame someone for their problems and ILLEGALS

  16. ann05 says:

    At one point U.S. citizens wanted to toss the Irish and the Italians too. Now they’re “white,” whatever white is. Rather than blame all my issues on “illegals” I’m going to blame Santa Claus. If that dude wasn’t monopolizing toy design and construction there’d be a lot of jobs for legal citizens, no?

  17. Laure68 says:

    “If you don’t have children in school, then you should not pay taxes for educating children.” In that case why even have public school? This would basically make every school private. The whole idea behind taxes, whether we like to admit it or not, is to spread the wealth. That is, even poor people have the right to an education.

  18. jenny tries too hard says:

    Not only do poor people have a right to an education, we ALL benefit from public education, even those who will be child-free their entire lives. It would not be a good place to live if only the very wealthy could, you know, read the street signs and learn enough to contribute through economic service (working and paying taxes and/or providing work for others) or military service. Sorry, even a dyed-in-the-wool libertarian sees the need for taxpayer-funded education.

  19. Manjari says:

    Gerry, I am not going to visit the state park near my house this year, or use the courthouse so I don’t want to pay taxes for those. Last year I wasn’t a victim of crime or fire, so I want my money back that went to the police and fire station.

    Everyone pays taxes for the above mentioned public services, and everyone benefits. Same with public school. It’s weird to suggest that there should be some sort of a la carte menu of taxes that people can choose to pay.

  20. linda says:

    A huge list and the words “do not put your name on any supplies” typed and underlined prior to the list. I thought that was strange. Some fourth graders want folders that they pick out and then you would want your name on them. I don’t usually get my daughter too many new fangled supplies, but I do let her pick out cute folders.

  21. [...] I’m lucky; my kids can’t wait to start school. I won’t have any of those struggles with getting them to go to bed early enough so they can get up and get ready for their first day next week. I’m looking forward to getting back into the routine that summer destroys no matter how many camps I sign them up for. But there is one thing about the coming school year that I dread and that is fundraising. Budget cutbacks will require more of it and it’s up to parents to get it done. [...]

  22. Adriana says:

    I live in a border town where there are many illegal children in the school. We are hit hard with taxes. Every year they vote to increase our taxes on our houses. We pay 3 times the taxes we should be paying. There are no school buses in our district unless it is for disable kids. We are an english speaking family only. There have been many times my kids have been stuck in a bilingual class and only spanish was spoke in the class and I had to fight with the school and district to move my kids into a normal class so they could learn. To top it off the nice school supplies I buy for MY children end up being used by other kids. The teachers will collect all the folders and supplies. Then pass them back out. Some times my kids end up not getting any school supplies back so I have to buy more. I don’t think that is fair to me. I have to buy supplies for 4 kids. Uniforms for 2 kids. I sure as hell don’t think I should be buying supplies for other kids. So I’ll pass on buying supplies for the school thank you very much. Oh and when the school list tell me not to put my kids name on it, they can kiss it. I write my kids name in permanent marker. What schools ask for now a days is insane. I never went through that much.

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