This week most schools across Region 8 get back in session. Leading up to this week many students and parents have been busy stocking up on the necessary school supplies for the upcoming year. A few weeks ago we received an e-mail from Angela Ashcraft of Pocahontas after we concluded our Supply Our Schools effort. Angela was wondering why families have to spend so much on school supplies compared to when she was receiving her education.
Here's a portion of her comments, "My concern is why going back to school and school supplies should cost so much... Why do parents have to buy dry erase markers for the teacher to use on the board? Shouldn't the school supply theses things? Lysol - why on God's green earth should the parents have to send to school 2 cans of Lysol? Copy paper - every child is to bring 2 reams of copy paper?
My generation had to have pencil and paper... and maybe some crayons and if we were lucky, we got a cigar box to put them in. I don't even remember my parents having to buy chalk!"
Stephanie Duckworth serves on our Commentary Committee and is also participating in the Leadership Jonesboro program with the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce. Last week several school administrators from Region 8 spoke to her class and she asked them specifically why they required so many supplies. According to Stephanie some of the administrators were not even aware of the list or shrugged it off with the standard "that's the way we've always done it" response. However, she was impressed with Westside Administrator James Best who agreed that this issue needs to be addressed. In fact, he informed the Leadership Jonesboro class that his team at Westside is in the process of reviewing their school supply procedures.
Angela, I have a sister who has taught 1st grade for almost 30 years and my wife is a pre-school teacher. I know for a fact that most teachers already invest quite a bit of their personal money for supplies, and other necessary items, without getting reimbursed. Yes, the state does provide them with a slight stipend, but most school districts do not offer any type of assistance for their faculty.
After taking a look at your list and a few other lists we've reviewed from area schools we agree that there are many items the schools should provide. It really makes you ask "Where are our tax dollars being spent?" Is there a logical answer??... we don't know.
We want to hear from our teachers in Region 8... from the school officials... from the parents... what has happened over the last 20 years to cause the number and cost of family provided school supplies to escalate so significantly? Has there been such a dramatic increase in school operational expenses that the districts can no longer afford to provide the basic supplies? We'll share that feedback in the coming weeks.