Last week, I went school supply shopping. As I have said many, many times before, I love to shop for school supplies. This year, it cost us $343 for school supplies and uniforms for both of our boys. Most people complain about the cost of the school supplies they have to buy each year, or the amount of the supply fee they pay to the school.
I witnessed such a complaint while shopping, and have been so disturbed since that I had to write about it. While I was looking for EXPO markers, I saw this woman with three girls standing in front of the markers, complaining about the list of supplies and the fact that they had to buy supplies. All three girls looked to be between middle school and high school. All three girls and their mother were carrying purses that cost well over $1,000 and shoes that run over $200. All three girls had on T-shirts from a resort that runs an average of $10,000 a week during the low season, and were texting away on their smartphones. Now, before I tell you this, I can tell you that it is plausible that someone else, other than their mother, gave them the T-shirts, smartphones, shoes and purses, and they truly could not afford the school supplies. If that is the case, clearly I am being judgmental, but that’s a conversation for another day… This is the conversation that occurred in front of the EXPO markers.
Mother: “It says you need six EXPO markers. There’s no more six-packs.”
Daughter: “Then get the pack of 10.”
Mother: “I’m not paying $6.79 for them. Then we would be giving them four extra markers. I’m not doing that. This is just ridiculous, they can buy their own markers if they want to use them.”
Friends, I am telling you, the indignance of these people has not sat well with me. I haven’t written about this, in part, because I wanted to do some research on the subject. First, I know we have all heard that teachers usually buy school supplies out of their own pockets. The National School Supply & Equipment Association (now theEducation Market Association) did a study last year on this very subject. Public school teachers spent $1.6 billion of their own money to buy school supplies to do their job. More than 99 percent of all public school teachers said they’d used their own funds for supplies, spending an average of $485 per person during the 2012-13 year. This is how it was broken down: $149 for school supplies, $198 for instructional materials, and $138 for “other classroom materials.” (You can read more here.)
So, let me get this straight — someone who is teaching our future leaders, doctors, lawyers, bankers, basically anyone who will be living for the next 50 years, is having to pay money to do his or her job? What if you went to the hospital and you needed, say, a shot? You pay for the syringe, medicine, alcohol pads, and the materials needed for the nurse and physician to do their job. If they told you that either a) you needed to pay a supply fee for the syringe, medicine, alcohol pads and the materials needed to perform this job or b) you had to bring the supplies, you would probably either pay the fee, or bring the supplies so that the nurse and physician could do their jobs.
I also looked at the average pay for teachers in East Baton Rouge Parish, since that is where I live and my children attend school. Starting out, teachers in East Baton Rouge make $44,500 the first year (you can find that here). Let’s say, for sh*ts and giggles, that they lose 30 percent of that to taxes, and are taking home $31,150 a year. Are you really telling me that it sits well with you that they are paying almost $500 out of pocket to do their jobs?
I also broke down what it is costing me per day with spending $343 on school supplies for our two kids. So, EBR has 176 school days this upcoming year and per kid, we spent $171.50 on school supplies. This breaks down to us spending $0.97 a day for the supplies the teachers need to instruct our kids for seven hours a day. When you look at it this way, we’re getting away with a steal of a deal.
I will gladly pay that any day to the teachers and educators who do a job that I, myself, cannot do. I would encourage you to gladly pay for the supplies needed to teach your children. If you have the means, I also encourage you to give a little bit extra. If the teacher needs extra glue, spend the $1 to buy an extra bottle of glue.
It’s not much, but I reached around that woman complaining and picked up the 16-pack of EXPO markers. She may not think twice about the teachers doing their jobs and the supplies they need, but I can, and I will.