Back to school time brings about a certain anticipation, but this year it also brought about a certain dread. Back to school shopping isn’t as easy and affordable as it once was. More and more is expected financially from parents of students who are receiving a “free” public education.
I made my first observations on the changing face of the public school system when school let out in May. My high school student was required to turn in, with her required registration papers, a $30 activity fee for the upcoming 2010-2011 school year. It was explained to us that the fee was to offset the costs of school activities that the district didn’t have enough funds to support.
My child, who doesn’t even participate in extra activities, was required to give the school $30 before they would even re-register her for this school year. I was confused, she was confused. Family members asked us why a public education that is free was costing us money? A school of approximately 4,000 takes in quite a bit of funds in the form of the activity fee.
Yet, once school started this year the children were sat down in an assembly and told there wasn’t much in the way of extra funds this year. The budget had been cut, transportation was being affected and there was very little in the way of copy materials for the year (four ink cartridges to last an entire year, to be exact). One teacher said they had no extra funds for art supplies, so there was a supply fee for the year. Another teacher told a tale of not having textbooks for the class, so a flash drive was requested among the school supply list so they could download the material they needed for studying.
In fact, three separate teachers asked for a flash drive among their required materials. Gone are the days of purchasing pens, pencils, paper and a notebook. I spent $100 on school supplies and only got off that cheap because we already owned the $130 graphing calculator required for her math class.
Expense aside I was curious as to why my high school student should be sat down and lectured on the state of the school budget. She has enough to worry about with advanced classes, college level testing, and taking two foreign language classes this year. I thought it was a bit like telling a toddler about your bank account. They don’t understand the repercussions and probably don’t care anyway.
The tough news didn’t stop with the high school. I had two meetings scheduled with each of my younger children’s elementary school teachers. The first gave us her expectations, did the assessment testing, and then at the end of the meeting handed us a wish list of everything she needed in the way of supplies that the budget couldn’t cover for her classroom.
The second teacher had much the same story to tell. Class field trips were being cut in half this year because of transportation costs. She may have to call on parents to provide needed supplies when she runs out because there is no budget for more.
I have long known that teachers come out of their own pockets to buy some supplies for their classes. This was the first year that my kids’ teachers have had to beg for help before school even gets rolling.
Will I pay more for better and more school supplies? Sure. Will I help out a teacher who needs some extra dry erase markers or notebooks? Of course. I wonder, though, where the education system has gone wrong and where it will end? If they ask me for bus fare, I think I will have to consider home schooling.