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The High Cost of Back to School Supplies – The Buck Stops with Parents

Posted by Lisa LaGrou July 30, 2012 OCM Blog

altI received the Back to School Supplies list provided by Rochester Community Schools for the upcoming school year. This isn’t my first back to school supplies dance. My kids are moving up through the ranks of elementary school and I’m quite used to receiving the list as the school year draws closer. So, why do I feel the need to gripe about this year’s list? Sure, cost is an issue but the superficial reasons are the ones that are getting to me.

I’ll list the itemized materials requested for a sample grade. In this case I’ll use the supplies for Fifth Grade (every grade is obviously different). The list for Rochester Community Schools comes with a sort of disclaimer that reads: “Rochester Community Schools must provide all necessary supplies and materials for curricular classes. Parents who wish to supplement these materials for their students may consider the following..”. I’ve learned not to read the italicized “wish” and “may” as “suggested” or “only buy what you can” as they would like you to believe. That lesson came last year when I was unable to buy everything because stores were out of items and was chased down and quizzed about the missing items. Also, it is clearly listed that “all items are community property. Please do not put names on the items.” Obviously that means those 30 or so pairs of scissors don’t come home with the kids at the end of the year. I have no clue where the excess supplies go. Any ideas?

OK, without further adieu, here’s the list of school supplies sent to each parent who “wishes” to “consider” purchasing for the Fifth Grade class:

  • Filler Paper – 2 packages
  • Sticky Notes -
  • #2 Pencils -
  • Colored Pencils -
  • Large Pink Eraser -
  • Antibacterial Wipes -
  • Scotch Tape -
  • Folders – 2 Pocket, 2 Prong, Blue, Red, Green, Yellow
  • Blue medium point pen – 6
  • Red medium point pen – 4
  • Scissors – pointed
  • Glue Stick, Dries Clear
  • Ruler – 12″ plastic
  • Dividers – 5 Tab (2 pkg)
  • Highlighters – 2 (yellow)
  • Dry Erase Marker – 4
  • Dictionary
  • Composition book – Marble cover (black)
  • Facial tissues – 3 boxes
  • Protractor – Plastic – Clear
  • Helix compass -
  • Colored pencils -
  • Eraser, large pink (I guess the first one isn’t enough)
  • Spiral notebook -
  • Binder – 3 Ring, 3″, Clear View, Black
  • Protractor – (I guess they need 2?)
  • Compass – (Because the Helix compass won’t cut it?)
  • Spiral Notebooks – Blue and Red
  • Storage Bags – Gallon Size

I’ve seen TV game shows with scavenger hunt lists that are less random and EXPENSIVE than this. I mean, it’s a good thing I have more than 30 days to start looking for this stuff. And the cost? I don’t have time to go to a Meijer website to check but I think you can gather that this will be a costly endeavor. My husband and I are beginning to become very thankful we stopped after 2 children. How much money did your parent or parents have to “pony up” when you were in elementary school?

My real issue with the school supplies list for the elementary school years is the griping we’ve seen since the economy in SE Michigan started to go sour. Metro Detroiters have endured veiled threats from school districts about millages not passing, frustration from overworked teachers who often have to foot the bill for many supplies themselves, ridiculous budget slashes and much more. I mean, sometimes both sides (teachers and administration) act like the schools are the only ones enduring cuts and a bad economy. Teachers in our district have even picketed over budget cuts and sent home literature to all the parents about their complaints. What about the parents? What about all the other sectors in SE Michigan getting slashed to the bone? Do they think their students’ parents haven’t endured some cuts over the past 10 years? What about OUR costs? All this griping… For what? So we the parents can be the final resting spot for the bill. We the parents (and children) are the last in line when it comes to costs in the school system. Again.¬†

This rant is by no means a slam to policies of my district or its teachers. I imagine Rochester Community Schools policies are similar to many other districts. Some, I would guess, could be far better or far worse. I’m very aware by now that school districts have had to make painful cuts. I’m also very aware that many teachers have been forced to go above and beyond to continue with their professions at great personal sacrifice – just like many other families in this economy. I just want the administrators to¬†realize that their complaints have been heard for years. I want them to know that the parents have a voice too and that the buck stops with us.

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