‘Plastic, not paper’: Growing demands for pricey school supplies anger parents

Aug 5, 2016 by

Cash-strapped schools across America are demanding that parents spend hundreds on supplies, even requiring bulk purchases of cleaning materials that benefit the entire class, in a move that is fomenting anger among moms who say the lists are real budget busters.

Elizabeth Shatz, a PTA parent from Mineola, N.Y., said she was required to purchase three 20-count boxes of pencils, multiple containers of baby wipes and boxes of tissues to be distributed among her child’s entire classroom. She also had to search store shelves for folders and notebooks in very specific colors – often hard-to-find hues – and was instructed to buy the more expensive “plastic, not paper” variety.

Although she adhered to most of the precise listings, the mother of two found some of her purchases were redundant, as evidenced by the unused notebooks and folders her children brought home. Shatz spends around $175 on supplies, but this figure does not include her additional contributions of tissues and wipes for classroom use, as requested by teachers throughout the school year.

“My kids are 10 and 12 and I don’t see the need for baby wipes in the classroom,” she told FoxNews.com. “Also, the damn pencils — they ask for too many!”

Shatz says parents who are generous pay the price – literally – to make up for freeloading families who refuse to purchase supplies.

Across the nation, parents are lamenting items appearing on supply lists that they feel schools themselves should fund, like copy-machine paper and household cleaning supplies. Expensive headphones and name-brand materials are also frequently required.

A single package of Staples copy paper costs more than $7, and at close to $5 a container, Clorox wipes add up. Even the most standard set of headphones sets parents back around $15, according to data from the Huntington Backpack Index.

Spending on back-to-school supplies is expected to increase by 10 percent in 2016, averaging $108 per child. About 64 percent of those funds are driven by list requirements from schools, according to an annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics for the National Retail Federation.

“Given that the majority of supplies spending is influenced by classroom requirements, rising planned spending could possibly be due to specific demands from schools,” Pam Goodfellow, a principal analyst for Prosper, told FoxNews.com in an email.

“The burden of purchasing these items could certainly fall on teachers and parents,” she wrote.

After reviewing items on her daughter’s “hyper detailed” list, Anne Johnson-Endy of Westfield, N.J., asked herself, “How many notebooks are 11-year-olds supposed to carry?”

Although hand sanitizer and tissues are a typical requirement, she called the addition of mandatory rubber gloves for biology class “alarming.” Also listed were earphones, memory sticks and three specific types of calculators — the most lucrative of items.

“It would have been better if they had just asked for the deluxe one to begin with. I think the last one cost close to $200,” the mother of two told FoxNews.com, adding teachers in other classes have even requested used iPhones and iPods.

At Public School 107 in Brooklyn, N.Y., supply lists require kindergarten parents to forgo cheaper, generic brands for Kleenex tissues, Bounty paper towels and Pampers baby wipes for a total of nine household items.

Mid-year requests for additional supplies utilized by the entire classroom are often directed at parents who are habitually generous.

In addition to spending more than $150 on supplies for her daughter’s personal use, Johnson-Endy typically contributes about $40 each school year for communal items like paper towels, tissues, hand sanitizer, napkins, wipes and Band-Aids.

“On the one hand, budgets are tight, but on the other I am sure that not all parents participate — those who do usually get asked more than once a year,” she said, referencing supply requests she has received every year without fail.

As school districts in the U.S. face rising operating costs, administrators become increasingly dependent on parents for funding, according to Steven McCullough, Chief Operating Officer at Communities in Schools.

On average, districts provided a mere $247, combined with $300 from the individual schools, to K-12 teachers annually, according to the results of a 2015 survey.

Although the brunt of scant funding can fall on parents, teachers are also heavily affected. Last year, teachers contributed an average of $490 from their own wallets, 57 percent of which was spent on classroom supplies — as opposed to books or instructional materials.

“To the extent they can, districts and schools are asking more from parents to support academic and non-academic expenses,” McCullough told FoxNews.com, citing demands that can be financially debilitating.

Fifth-grade teacher Alexa Romano’s experience working in a lower-income district was very different. There, tissue boxes were banned from school supply lists and classrooms were only provided brown paper towels that were rough in texture and painful on the noses of students.

Romano’s verbal requests to parents at orientation to provide their children with personal tissue packets were largely ignored.

“I had to buy tissues for my class all year, especially during the winter months,” said Romano, who teaches in New York and admits spending hundreds of dollars on boxes of tissues during the cold and flu season.

Amy Rhine, a kindergarten teacher in Las Vegas, Nev., also spent her own money, withdrawing $1,200 from her personal bank account last year to purchase materials ranging from hand sanitizer to baby wipes, which aren’t supplied by her school.

“I understand that parents feel they have to spend their hard-earned money on what they feel are unnecessary supplies for their children,” she told FoxNews.com, encouraging parents to contribute supplies as an investment in a “better and brighter future” for their kids.

Rhine insisted citizens must voice their concerns to their state governments to increase school funding if they want to see an improvement in supply quantities.

“In a perfect world we wouldn’t ask for parents to buy anything except a backpack,” she said.

Source: ‘Plastic, not paper’: Growing demands for pricey school supplies anger parents | Fox News

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