Schools burdening parents with expenses

stir_fryiMarch 10, 2008

My children attend a public school. This year I have been annoyed by how many things come home that ask for money. They do school pictures TWICE a year now. How dumb -- I just gave out their pictures four months ago - nobody wants another one.

Also, for my kindergartener, just got a piece of paper -- draw a picture of your favorite place -- they send it to a company who makes a book out of all the children's pictures and then sell it back to you.

My second grader -- write a story - they send it out and make a hardcopy book of the whole classes' stories and then sell it back to you for $15.

I know these things are optional if I don't do it I hear about from my kids - "why didn't you want to buy a copy of my book??"

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I am so thankful that I am not a parent today. I would draw the line at having to provide supplies for and buy things from the school. One year, my dtr. told me it cost her over $400 to buy everything on the "required" list for her kids who were in middle school.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 2:51PM
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Well....if you would "draw the line" where would these supplies come from?
Well I guess they could increase your property taxes...but you wouldn't like that either.
Not too many years ago, rural kids had to attend a one room school with 8 grades all together and one person teaching everything from beginning reading to algebra...if she was able. If you wanted something better for your kids you had to pay tuition.
$400 indeed! That's about $1.65 a day...for your child's education!

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 3:26PM
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Fine with me to increase property taxes. We are educating the doctors, lawyers, teachers of tomorrow and it's up to the tax payers, not the parents of the students, to pay for their education. If I wanted to pay for an education, I'd send my kids to private school.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 4:34PM
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I'm also amazed at what the schools ask us to send in. The supply list is getting bigger each year. And then once you buy the supplies on the list that the school sends home for you, then the teacher has her own list of supplies that she wants your child to have for her classroom. Toliet paper, papertowels, zip lock bags, tissues, hand sanitizer, pens, a package of pencils, erasers, photocopy paper, colored construction goes on and on. And they even make them buy the activity books where they have to read the stories and do the worksheet in them.

Our schools provide nothing now.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 5:27PM
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The government has probably reduced funding to schools, which has happened here.

I guess we can't expect the government to totally look after us all. I can see its reasonable for the parents to pay for extras at the school, but Stir's list is just unreasonable.

I received an $800 extra bill for a ski trip that my son is going on later in the year. What luxury ! He is supposed to pay for it himself, by selling chocolates. That's a lot of chockies.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 5:42PM
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the laws in this country force children to go to school until they are 16. When mine were in school, a friend told me you don't have to pay a dime towards that education. Well...when I fell on hard times I tested that and it was true. Until I got on my feet I never paid any of the fees. Only one school secretary told me I had to pay or they would not give my child a report card. I said ok, keep it. I was sent his report card via the mail and when he enrolled the next year into Jr High, his records had been transferred to the new school.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 7:50PM
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I agree there are too many requests for extra funds for items or activities that are not necessary. Once I said the first "No" it got easier.

The first one was a "field trip" to see a movie at the movie theatre in December, the movie was "Santa Clause" and DS was in 1st grade. Of course there was a charge. I declined the trip, saying my son would stay home that day. If I couldn't stay home w/him, the school would have had to keep him there. Since I could keep him home, he didn't feel singled out that he didn't go. I told the teacher it was an unnecessary trip away from the security of the school property that held no educational value. Once I told other parents I declined, 3 others did as well. The next year, they didn't take the trip.

As long as parents go along with all of it, it looks like there is interest so the projects, activities, etc keep happening. The only way the school knows there isn't enough interest to bother is for parents to speak up with words and by not sending the money in.

We have two picture days, too. I do not buy them the first time, I know the spring ones will be better quality. And then the company sends a whole $50 package home, you pay/keep what you want and send the rest back. I only keep what I will actually use (I do not need 8 X 10s of every kid every school year, and certainly don't need $5 bookmarks w/pictures on them). Book fair happens twice/year. The kids get to preview and make a wish list. I'm shocked by how many parents treat it like an order form and send their kid to school with a check for every book on the wish list, sometimes $40+, without even having seen the books themselves. Some parents even send blank checks!! Good grief! I guess their bucket is bigger than mine. I do not let my kids buy without me there or having seen the book they want, and they get a $10 limit.

At the start of the year the room moms often ask for a donation from each child's parents to use for a classroom budget throughout the year. This year DS' kindergarten room mom asked for $40/child, times 20 kids. $800???? She uses those funds throughout the year for teacher/aid gifts and crafts at class parties (she still asks for food when the event comes up). I did NOT send that it. She can ask, doesn't mean she'll receive. LOL. I am not funding her grand ideas. If I want to give the teacher a gift, I'll get one. I'm not contributing to a teacher classroom gift before I even know what the gift will be. All those holiday crafts ends up in the trash at my house, I'm not a keeper of painted popsicle sticks. My opinion is there are too many class parties and too many silly holiday crafts. I think the room mom should not do all that stuff, so I will not condone it by paying for it. How do I really know what the room mom is doing with that money? And really, I am not doing that times 3 kids in elementary school. Other parents must respond, though, b/c it's very common for the room mom to do that. When I talk to other parents about it they act like they don't have a choice. BUT WE DO!!

I don't send my kids on overnight trips, that is a family thing. Maybe when they're in high school, but DS's former school planned an overnight trip for 4th grade- not happening.

The supplies, though, I'm generous with. My kids get everything on the list without a complaint from me. I even send in extras for kids who can't buy supplies. If the teacher asks for an item, I'm right there. If she says she out of tissues or hand sanitizer it's on my next grocery list. She asks for packets of seeds for a science lesson, she'll get 'em. I even send in hamstser food for the class pet (and donated a cage we weren't using). I go in to copy for each of my kids' teachers once/week. Late in the year when I know their copy paper supply is running low I will take in paper to do the copying. If she tells me she is paying for 2 kids field trip fee so everyone can go, I will pay for 1. I have the teachers' backs. Because I do that, I don't feel a bit cheap when I don't give $ for the "classroom gift" or buy her a spa gift card.

And all the piddly stuff, my kids just get used to "no." When/if they ask "Why didn't you buy that?!" I tell them we didn't need it and I can't buy everything. They are starting to get it, they bring home flyers and tell me "We don't need this, I'm throwing it away!"

I am active on the PTA, I understand the needs they meet in the school. So much happens at the school, real needs not just wants, that would not happen without the funds and time the PTA puts in. So I know they are vitally important. Still, I do not participate in the selling fund raisers. I do not need the stuff in the catalogue, I will not sell it to others. I get annoyed with the fall festival: we are asked to donate bunches of stuff that will then be sold back to us in the form of raffle tickets. I write a check to the PTA a couple times a year, to break it up. It's totally tax deductible that way, too.

So I know I need to contribute. I am a public school advocate, I see the need for the school to be supported by the community by money as well as other resources. But I don't need to throw my money away on junk. I only say yes to what I want to say yes to. Just b/c the note comes home doesn't make it mandatory. Kids might feel left out sometimes when Mom doesn't buy what other moms buy. But that's life, the need to not let their self-worth rest on buying what "everyone else" buys everytime something is for sale.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 9:10PM
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So far this year, I have paid over $100 for a bus pass so my SD can ride the bus. They have two picture days also. They had a 'Santa's Workshop' in December, where I sent $50 for SD to buy what they said were 'nice' gifts but she came home with a bunch of junk. I didn't see ten dollars worth of crap, but it cost me $50. I also get hit with fees for field trips, classroom parties, and last month, a company came out and did 'ident-a-kid' cards. I got three for $10 but that was probably a good thing to have. (of course, when my kids were in school, the police dept came to the school & took their pictures & fingerprints and sent a one page printout with all the same information that I just paid to get on my SD. The police did it for free.

So far this year (since August when school started) I have spent over $600 which includes the required school supplies. That doesn't count the $400-450 I spent on school clothes. and she's only in the third grade!!!

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 11:04PM
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stephanie_in_ga - At the start of the year the room moms often ask for a donation from each child's parents to use for a classroom budget throughout the year. This year DS' kindergarten room mom asked for $40/child, times 20 kids. $800????


That is outrageous. I am a room mother - we asked for a $5 donation to fund three parties throughout the year. Even then, some parents still do not pay. Fine, we make it work.

When I was a kid, my mother would take us shopping in August for things like pencil boxes, pencils, and maybe a box of tissues for our desk. Now they seem to want parents to provide toiletries -- hand wipes, and in some cases, anti-bacterial wipes for things like doorknobs. Give me a break -- I draw the line at cleaning products. As for hand wipes, get up and wash your hands! Much cheaper and more effective.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 11:23PM
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Dh and I were discussing this the other day. Pictures are the new money maker.

Fortunately, I learned to decline starting my ds#1's first week in kindergarten when we were expected to sell $50 worth of chocolate bars that we were to either pick up from school or be sent home in 100+ degree weather. I learned that the school only gets to keep 50% of the money brought in. I've started making 50% cash donation to the PTA because they do need some money. I don't want or need the junk they sell.

I've also just started giving the teachers cash instead of sending in supplies all the time. I figure it's better than having duplicates for some projects and not enough of the other supplies to finish out the project.

One thing that bothers me is that the kids are now supposed to be supplying healthy snacks for the 18-20 kids in the classroom. The problem is that not everyone participates. I'll send in enough snacks for two or three days each month, but the teacher is still begging for more snacks throughout the month. Some of these kids have the latest and the greatest so I don't think it's lack of money. My kid will have a snack every day, but I imagine it's pretty hard as a teacher to watch some kids get a snack while others don't.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 11:32PM
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For everyones FYI, if you take your children to the police department, they will fingerprint them and put them in the system free of charge. (The only drawback is that once they're in the system they never come out, so if they grow up to commit a crime and leave some prints, they can get busted later...not that anyone's worried about such a thing...just heard of it happening.) You can take their pictures yourself and keep an "emergency" file in the case it's needed. Also, most dentists will take dental impressions which could also be used to indentify a child in the case of an abduction, but those aren't free.

In the US public school is one of our government funded social services. It's a right as well as a requirement, as you can get in much trouble for not having your school-aged children in some form of schooling. A public school cannot so much as require you to buy your child a pencil if you don't want to.

That being said, I buy the school supplies, which usually run about $20, and I donate a cash/check "membership fee" to the PTO, tax deductible. We can't pass a levy, so when I have a child who wants to play a sport or join a club, I'll be paying a hefty fee for that. The oldest is in 3rd right now, and there aren't clubs or sports until middle school.

The pay-to-play sport situation really bothers me. I can afford the $200 a year (so long as there's only one activity involved), but some people can't. What this means is that some poor underprivileged child who is great at football won't be playing, no chance of getting recruited on a college sports scholarship, no after-school activity to keep him or her out of trouble. It's such a shame.

Now, if you're really interested in my rant on school fees, let's talk about my SD. She goes to a parochial shool, 4th grade, $2,500 tuition, uniforms. On top of that, she comes home the first day of school with a letter to send $300 for book fees. Then all parents are required to participate with a minimum amount of volunteering each month. If you can't volunteer, you can be excused for a small fee of another $300. Then there's countless raffles, dinners, bingo, lotto calenders, and the like for you to dump more money into. It makes me wonder what exactly the $2,500 tuition (and rising each year) is going to. Also, the $2,500 tuition is parishoners only. If you're not a parishoner, it will be $4,500 please...all for something your child was already entitled to for free.

DH wanted to send our other children too, but I said absolutely not. To me, that's a high price to pay for my child to get a religion class at school. They can just go to Sunday school. I'm sure they'll be fine.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 11:34PM
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Nope, I'm not kidding about that $40/child. The 3-page letter did say that these funds will be used to purchase the teacher and her aid gifts throughout the year including Christmas, Valentine's Day, teacher appreciation, their birthdays and the end of the year. (Dang! I don't get gifts for all those days!) The $40 was the "suggested" amount. I don't know how much was actually collected or even what gifts have been given so far this year from the class. Since I did not participate, I didn't think it prudent to ask. (Personally, I gave a couple books and took the teachers' orders for a Starbucks run one day. ;o)) The number of times a flyer is sent home telling us to send small "gifts of appreciation" to teachers/cafeteria staff/custodial staff/counselors/etc is another pet peeve of mine. What kind of token of appreciation is it if everyone is *told* what to do and when? If I am so moved to compensate the staff beyond their pay checks, I will do so when and how I want!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 1:09AM
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I see no point in all these parties. And I agree about Holiday crafts, they end up in the garbage. And unless field trips have education value, there is no need in those either. DD went on a lot of trips while in middle high school and they were all educational: museums, theaters (not movies) etc Those I did not mind.

What's up with school bus fees? School buses are supposed to be free for students.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 9:28PM
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With the failure of our last levy, they took away busing for all children who live within 2 miles of their school, and for the high school there is now a total of 6 cluster stops for the entire district, a very large district.

I know that 2 miles is not that far, but our schools are mostly located on busy streets with no sidewalks. So we have very young children walking down busy streets and crossing busy intersections...alone. Most parents are picking their grade school children up now, but enough are not. It drives me mad to watch little kids walking on the side of the street with cars zipping by them at 50 miles and hour.

I will not even walk the route they expect my child to walk...down two busy roads with no sidewalks and under a freeway overpass. I only wish I could pay to have her busing continued. I think most parents would pay for it, but it's not even an option for us. Maybe someone in charge will get it when some poor child gets killed by a passing car because it's only a matter of time before it happens.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 10:04PM
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We have no bus service in our entire district!! Luckily the elementary and middle schools are less than a mile from our home. And they have adult crossing guards posted at every intersection along the path to the schools. But most of the time we walk with, or drive our kids to school.

As far as costs for is ridiculous! We pay VERY high property taxes. School supply kits for next year came out and they want $50 or so dollars per supply kit!! No thanks, for 4 kids I think I will go on my yearly scavenger hunt through the dollar store and Walmart and save money. Field trips are ridiculous priced, probably partially because we have no regular bus company.
Every other week I feel like I am getting dollared to death! Last week was state testing, this week each kid brought home money requests for class parties to celebrate the end of testing. I would not give it to them, but then they do not get to eat the treats that the money is buying.
And how am I going to let them be left out?

Our school is doing that book creating thing too. Kids required to make a book for reading class. $20 for each book if you buy it (and of course you have to buy it or your kids are asking you why you don't want the book they made!)

Then there is the constant book fairs that the kids walk through during the day and come home and want to buy books from-which we say no! WAnt to read the book that bad, then we will go to the library and check it out!

Then there is also spirit wear (overpriced sweatshirts and t-shirts with the school logo) they try to sell and reward kids for wearing on school spirit days! We do not buy those. We tell them to wear school colors on spirit days.

And last year they had candy bar sales at their old school. (we moved into our new home during the year so they transfered schools-thank goodness) They tried to say each family HAD to sell 1 box or donate $25!!! How in the heck can a public school try to require that! Then they sent home a box with my son and both sd's. When I called about the error they said that since my sd's were at different schools they both have to sell-one per school. And my son had to sell because he was not "really related" to sd so it was not considered same family! I sent all 3 boxes back to school and told kids to return to office saying we are not participating in candy sales. They sent home a note about the money we "owed" as part of our contribution!! That went into the recycling bin!! My contribution was school fees at the beginning of the year and all the other fundraisers we participated in.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 10:47PM
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I forgot about the spirit wear until you brought it up. $20 for some plaid sweatpants, and $20 for a sweatshirt...outrageous!! I'm a sucker though, and I did buy pants and a shirt for my daughter; however, I bought them REALLY large. She has to roll the pants and sleeves, and I'm certain they'll fit for at least a total of three years, but she doesn't seem to care.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2008 at 9:22AM
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These are horror stories that I'm reading here, but I am very glad to see so many of you standing up to your particular school district.

Instead of contributing to the "post testing" (how ridiculous) party, can you send your child to school with a special snack that he/she can eat at "party" time.

Regarding the special books, etc., I think I would sit my child down and tell him/her that they are truly loved, but love is not expressed in terms of money or material things.

I'm an old grandma who started rebelling against our school district's "rules" when my oldest was in second grade. The school demanded a yearly physical and I refused. Our doctor wrote the school a letter outlining when his patients required physicals and that he totally supported my refusal to submit. I also refused when they tried to demand that each child bring a urine sample to school for testing for potential diabetes - this was well before drug testing. That is between me and my child and is not the school's business.

I further rebelled when our middle school tried to institute a different dress code for students than either the elementary or high school students had. I beat them there too - the policy was not instituted.

Keep up the good fight!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2008 at 9:54AM
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I think when you educate your children it makes sense to them and they don't feel bad about not being part of an event. Our school sells wrapping paper for six bucks a roll and I took DS shopping after Christmas and bought wrapping paper for 25 cents a roll and had him figure out how many I could buy. Now when he gets those packs at the beginning of the year- he hands them back to the teacher tells her why we don't participate. I've had a couple of teachers tell me they also dislike these fundraisers as they are teaching kids about healthy nutrition and money management and then expect them to sell chocolate (who do they think buys it?) or overpriced things.

I donate money or my time instead but I am not buying junk.

I also had a teacher this year who told me she did not like that I had recycled different brands of markers and put them in a bag because his markers were not all the same...I took each one out wrote on a piece of paper and they all worked really well, he had one of every color, and DS didn't mind so I let her know that I wasn't going to spend more money for matching markers because I was trying to teach him to reduce, reuse, etc...

    Bookmark   March 12, 2008 at 7:22PM
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School supplies are not even an issue. They send the list, I buy the supplies. As for picture days and book fairs, no problem. I mean, I control what gets purchased and no one is holding a gun to my head to buy anything. Fundraisers....well....I don't like them but again, they are not mandatory so I usually buy one thing...or not...Just depends on what is being sold. Spirit shirts are fine with me. I have never spent more than 8 bucks for one and my daughter wears hers even after the school year is over. I do have memories of pushy room mothers and their demands. Of course demanding something and getting it are two different things. Many over grand parties were planned yet most ended up as cookies and punch with a fun activity. Most parents just refused to send in $$$ for these parties and instead sent cookies..LOL...

    Bookmark   March 22, 2008 at 11:29AM
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I agree with most of what has been said here. I once refused permission for my daughter to go on a noneducational, expensive field trip that my daughter would not have enjoyed. We spent the day together at a local museum instead. We also do not participate in any of the fundraising that involves selling wrapping paper, etc.

However, I would like to say that although the post-testing party sounds ridiculous on the surface, I think it's a very good idea, at least at our local elementary school. Our kids spend a lot more time testing than I remember doing as a child. The kids get very tired of sitting still and concentrating for so long, all week. My kids have always been able to sit still for relatively long periods of time, had relatively long attention spans and ability to concentrate, and they both said the testing was tiring for them. So I know it must be exhausting for some of the more active kids. For those kids who tend not to do well on the testing the stakes are very high, so I'm sure the testing is extra stressful for those kids.

Even our no-nonsense, no-frills teachers ask for post-testing parties in elementary and high school.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2008 at 3:49PM
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We have all the above: twice a year picture days, spirit wear, mandatory fundraisers (or pay the fee--$125), long supply lists (what's with the cleaning supplies and office supplies--NO I will not buy hand sanitizers, use a bar of soap)--we get supply lists twice a year), raffles, lotteries, selling nuts, calendars, chocolates, dinner kits, special 'family' night as local restaurants, pencil/crap, wrapping papers, and popcorn; field trips to Disney world and the water park (yeah, reale educational), or to movies to see the latest Disney cute film, snacks (why does a 5th grader need a snack every day--breakfast, lunch and dinner with a snack at home after school is enough food. Kids do not need a morning snack and an afternoon snack and an after soccer practice snack and a before bed snack; come on, be reasonable, could this be contributing to childhood obesity? Snack, snack, snack. Time to stop snacking), and lots of money for parties (can't have homemade food like cupcakes or cookies per law, must have prepackaged commercial stuff-ie, PIZZA!); book fairs, and art projects that get transfered to plates, aprons, mugs, calendars, and mousepads for a hefty fee. Oh and there's ice cream sundae competitions and pizza party competitions where if you raise enough money, the principal will shave his head, or sit on the roof all night or something.

One thing that wasn't mentioned is how much begging for money goes on for teachers. A present for the end of the year, a present for the holidays, a present for Teacher appreciation day, which is different than the presents for Teacher Appreication week (on Monday everyone will get her candy, and on Tuesday everyone will get her a gift card, on Wed everyone will get her a book, etc...), and a present for the teacher's birthday. Room mothers and teachers' aids need their presents too.

It's exhausting and expensive. And we haven't talked about extra activities. Join the football team and spend $600. Join the cheerleaders at age 7 and spend $800. Which is fair, you should pay for these activities--only they don't tell you that it's going to cost $800. The signup form says $125--and only later do you find out about mandatory this and mandatory that--such as the coach selling the girls for $28 a piece two hairbows she made probably for a dollar apiece.


I just say no. And no, no, no, no, no.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 8:42PM
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