School Supplies and Funding for Education
By Dr. Katherina Muller
Faculty Member, School of Education at American Public University
When my son entered Kindergarten 20 years ago in Fairfax County, Virginia, his teacher sent home a list of items he should bring to class. This list included pencils, a composition notebook, and a tissue box. Schools have been asking students and parents to bring supplies to make up for budget shortfalls for quite some time. It comes as no surprise that this trend has continued into the current era of reduced funding. Asking parents, teachers, and community members to make up these shortfalls raises several important issues.
As a parent, I was all too happy to supply my son and his teachers with anything they needed. It just seemed the right thing to do to ensure the success of both. At the time, my husband and I were both fully employed and had the extra resources. We did not think twice about our obligation to the school our son attended.
Later, as a second grade teacher, I also sent home a list of items my students should bring to school. Working in a low socioeconomic elementary school, the reality was that only a few parents sent the needed supplies. I found myself shopping sales at Staples and Walmart to make up for the shortfall and to ensure that my students had everything they needed to be successful in my classroom.
In addition to my own shopping sprees, I reached out to my students’ parents and enlisted the aid of those who could afford to help with supplies. A number of those parents responded and kept us flush with pencils, paper, and tissue boxes for the entire school year.
As a community member and homeowner, I have deep concerns and questions about the amount of money I am asked to pay for the school system. According to the statement of taxes due that I received in recent mail, 68.26 percent of my property tax goes to items for schools: 30 percent goes to School Current, 3 percent goes to School per Improvement, and 35 percent goes to School Excess Levy. Furthermore, my personal property tax also carves out the same 68.26 percent for the school system. As a taxpayer, one has to wonder where all this money is going.
Instead of continuing to wonder, I recommend that we find out where this money is going by looking at the school budget and going to public meetings.
Although money is sorely needed, it is not the only way we can support our schools. Spending time in a school nearby as a volunteer can change lives in ways that money can only hope. As a parent, I volunteered in all of my son’s schools whenever I had the chance. It was an eye-opener about the state of our education and the enormous amount of work our teachers do. It inspired me to go back to school and get my master’s and doctorate degrees in education and join the ranks of these teachers.
Although things seem bleak when it comes to funding for education, donating time and/or money, writing grants, and reaching out to business partners and community members are all ways we can help. The links below are but a few of the many I found while exploring what other communities are doing for their schools. I invite you all to explore what you can do for your school system.
Here are some examples of the problem:
This New York Times article tells us this is not a new phenomenon. Requests for school supplies are made in this 2010 article.
CBS Report on parents being asked to bring supplies to school.
This Washington Post story reports on budget woes.
This Star Tribune of Minnesota article discusses the great need for supply wishlists for the classroom.
Besides help from the parents, what is being done to combat these issues? Here are some solutions:
Business partners and campaigns, such as the Long Subaru “Fill this Outback” campaign, in this Worcester Mass Telegram article, they are doing what they can to combat supply shortage.
On NPR YPR Midday Friday, August 28, 2015 Dan Roderick interviewed Washington County, Maryland, Teacher of the Year 2014 Courtney Leard on the creative ways they’re using to engage their students.
Fill the Bus:
About the Author
Dr. Katherina Muller teaches graduate level courses online for American Public University System and freshman at Frederick Community College. Her doctorate is from West Virginia University in Curriculum & Instruction, Master’s degrees are in Reading and in Elementary Education, and Graduate Certificate from Marshall University is in Teaching English as a Second Language. Bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University in New York is in Education.