“Orange folder, orange folder, orange folder… Why are there no orange folders?” I thought to myself this morning while walking up and down the isles of Walmart looking to check off one of the more reclusive items on the school supply list.
“Why can’t I use blue? The list specifically says one solid green, one solid orange… Uhh! Will I end up in parent jail for sending a blue one instead? This is nuts!” I almost let my brain’s conversation become my mouth’s conversation… you know like the crazy guy in the grocery store check out line that mutters under his breath about the lady using coupons in front of you. Only he doesn’t realize everyone can hear him.
I stop a worker who is frantically stocking merchandise as fast as the mob can swipe them off the shelf. She tells me to check in stationary. Once there I finally find my orange folder. VICTORY IS MINE! … or so I thought. It turns out once I got home I read the fine pint… (folders with prongs). OH MAN!
This situation is one that is very familiar to East Ridge parents. Every year East Ridge parents in mass head out to their nearest big box store or dollar store to stock up on school supplies. We are not talking about a binder, a couple notebooks and box of pencils. Parents are given a long list of supplies they are expected to purchase to supply the classroom. Yes you read that right … “supply the classroom.” These supplies purchased by parents are not earmarked for the child of the purchaser, they are put into a general pool within the classroom and used where needed as needed.
In total, to meet the obligation of my kids’ supply list, I spent about $60 per child in order to get the items on their list. I have two kids so that is a total of $120 for both. This doesn’t include shoes, school clothes, backpacks, or other personal use items they may need before school starts. This is just to “supply the classroom”. As a homeowner and taxpayer I cannot help and stop to ask myself if the school isn’t double dipping.
Its the state school board mandate that public education is free. Thats the law. The problem is the money just isn’t there to make it free. Our school system in Hamilton County is literally held together by a duct tape, patchwork network of fees that cost the parents in this county about $5 million annually. This number isn’t one I just made up, it’s the one cited most often by board members when they acknowledge a problem exists. They also readily admit that without these monies the entire system would probably come to a screeching halt.
On top of the $60 per child in school supplies the school will ask me to pay on registration day (or as quickly as possible) a $50 per child “supply fee.” This fee goes into a fund used by the school to purchase extras that are not paid for or supplied by the Hamilton County School System. A lot of the time, more often than not, these “extras” are actually necessities. Things like copy paper, ink, toner, instructional materials. Science teachers are required to ask parents to pay “lab fees” so they can buy the supplies needed to do a science lab. If there isn’t enough parents who pay the fee they just skip that lab experiment. How will our children be prepared for college when the level of their instruction is dependent upon the ability of their parents to pay fees.
The worst part about these fees and supply lists is that they are completely voluntary.
Yep, you read that right. Completely voluntary. The school cannot legally force you to pay for education. As I stated before, the state school board has said that public education is free. This means that you cannot be forced nor punished for failing to pay for a fee for education. Supply fees cannot be held against you. You cannot be forced to pay Field Trip fees. Teachers should only be using field trips to provide instruction and as such failing to pay the field trip fee cannot be held against you. If you do not purchase supplies you cannot be billed, cited, or punished. No one can or will withhold your child’s report card for failing to contribute.
It’s due to that fact that the parents who choose to contribute are asked to contribute more. So the lists seem even more overwhelming and even more ridiculous.
I can’t say I disagree with those parents. Its already hard enough to come up with the money required to clothe my child and make sure he has shoes and a backpack. It seems impossible to add to that $100 per child in fees and supplies. I couldn’t imagine how families with four or five children in school manage to find the money needed to pay those fees as requested.
So what do I do? To Fee or Not to Fee? That is my question. In three days time I will be asked to pay $50 per child to East Ridge Elementary for “school supplies.”
Do I refuse to pay this unlawful hidden “PARENT TAX” or do I pay my child’s share? I already pay taxes to the Hamilton County school system. Why do I have to pay for supplies because they FAIL to meet their obligation? I’ll tell you why, because they know at the end of the day its my child, and no parent is going to willfully make their children suffer even if they feel it’s wrong.
Do I pay the fee, even though I know I am not required to, and have already paid the school in the form of property taxes? Is this what being a good parent is about? Do I limit my protest on this unlawful parent tax to complaining about it, and verbal protest for my child’s sake? Should I refuse to do the one thing that might actually force change? I am sure if more parents refused to pay, the school system would have to figure out a way to adequately supply classrooms. Is this measure a risky one that should be avoided for the sake of the children?
Honestly I am not sure what I will do. I have gone back and forth in my mind. Which action is the best course? Should I just admit that unless the school wins it’s lawsuit with the state to get more funds things are unlikely to change and as such for the sake of my kids’ education I need to just pay the fee? What do you plan on doing? If you don’t have school age children presently think back to when you did. Were you required to furnish supply lists this lengthy? Did you pay a hefty supply fee? Could you have afforded one with all the clothes and other items your children required?
Sound off in the comment section below and tell me your thoughts. Maybe there is a reasonable solution I haven’t thought of. I know there are a wide variety of opinions on this subject. None of them are wrong, every one makes a valid point. Let’s hear what you have to say.