School supplies take on new meaning as budgets tighten

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I was always civic-minded, but this year my school district's budget has more meaning to me than ever. Largely because it's being slowly but decidedly shifted from the tax base to parents.

It started when a friend complained that, with three boys in grade school and one in preschool, she'd noticed that the trend was toward more school supplies. "Expect to be asked for lightbulbs next year," she said. Others chimed in to say that, this year, unexpected requests included hand sanitizer; three boxes of Kleenex; a few canisters of disinfecting wipes; and, most amazingly, two reams of copy paper. I looked down the list of other grades at my son's eclectic elementary. Lewis, 2nd Grade, Spanish Immersion asks for a box of zip-lock bags and a magazine holder; and specifies how many ounces the hand sanitizer bottles should be. Another classroom specifies that the teacher wants regular size boxes of Kleenex; none of those cute mini boxes!

Can't get the school district to pay for art supplies, snacks, pencils, folders, surface wipes, and copy paper? Have the parents do it! seems to be the agreement among educators. While it's certainly preferable to allowing the teacher to pay for supplies out of his or her own meager salary, it's not what I'd call fiscally acceptable. School "supplies" seems more and more to mean stocking the school's supply room than a nicely-filled backpack.

But at least I haven't been asked to make a small contribution to the teacher's pension fund... not yet, anyway.
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