Remember the days when school shopping meant going to the local retailer and purchasing items such as pencils, scissors, crayons and other academic paraphernalia and buying that “must have” first day of school outfit? Well, in case you have been far removed from school shopping, let me give you an update on the new school shopping lists. Teachers have long dug deeply into their pockets to buy school supplies for their classes but now students and their families are being asked to help supply schools with needed schools supplies for the coming school year.
I accompanied my daughter to Walmart recently to do school shopping and was amazed at the items required for her to purchase for the first day of school for her two young children. She was not shopping for school clothes or the usual school supply items. Instead, I noticed Ziploc bags, markers of certain colors, glue as well as those well known black and white composition books, backpacks, paper items such as paper towels listed on a paper that she was clutching in her hand. The composition book had to be in four different colors and not the usual black and white composition books that we all know from our school days. I was unaware that the ubiquitous black and white composition book is now manufactured in different colors. As I moved about the aisles stocked with a myriad selection of school supplies, I noted parents and children intently looking for the requested items on their list. In fact in our state, when you shop at the large retail stores, at its entrance you will often see school shopping lists for that particular school district so that you can shop for the exact items needed for your particular school. It is my understanding that this shopping trip will be conducted again for the spring semester to replenish the school supplies.
Why the Change?
So, what caused the change from the usual school supply list to the now enlarged school shopping list that includes classroom and janitorial supplies? The answer plain and simple is budget cuts. Communities across the country have repeatedly publicized cuts that impact the available funds for purchasing even the most basic of school supplies. School buses no longer maintain their regular routes and in some districts bus routes no longer exist and parents have the full responsibility of transporting their children to and from school. In other school districts, children are asked to provide their own plastic cutlery to eat lunch. Are these changes an indictment against our school system or is it a trend that we should embrace without reservation? We acknowledge that we live in perilous financial times but it seems to me that some areas need to be left untouched unless absolutely necessary to cut: education is one area that I think should not be placed on the proverbial chopping block until all avenues to save money have been exhausted.
Impact upon families
Another concern is how are families who may be struggling with financial cutbacks within their households due to unemployment or underemployment able to handle this extra burden? If there are several children in the family with several different lists, you can see how the costs mount to further throw the family budget in disarray. Is there a “penalty” for families that are unable to meet their shopping list obligation? Do other families feel that they are taking on more responsibility unfairly when some families are unable to shoulder their fair share– questions that have no easy answer when you stop and seriously consider the implications.
Possible Alternative Action
We recognize that when problems arise, we need to consider possible options to effectively resolve the problem. Would it be reasonable instead of families frantically looking for the exact items on the school shopping list for the schools to ask for a specified amount of money from each family to contribute to the purchase of school supplies? The money could then be spent at a local school supply store where supplies could be purchased in quantity? Would that make the dollar stretch further than each family purchasing the items individually? Admittedly, some families perhaps would not be able to give the specified amount of money but if the families are informed early in the summer or at the end of the school year of the projected contribution for the new school year, they could most likely budget for the required contribution.
Families could form a school supplies purchasing pool and share the costs by separating and shopping for the listed items.
Throughout the summer, keep your eyes open for sales and purchase the items over time instead of all at once. Dollar stores are a good place to purchase commonly used school supplies and helps to keep your budget intact.
Whether this extended school shopping trend will continue will be determined in the future. I am dismayed that families now have this added responsibility. One good result may be that families may become more involved with their local schools which would be a remarkable benefit. I think most families are willing to do their fair share but I wonder how and if the fair share can be distributed equally in today’s economy. Just a question. Meanwhile, in spite of the new and revised school shopping list, my wish is that all of our students will have a productive, meaningful school year in spite of budget cuts and unconventional school shopping lists. Study well, students.