Home > Uncategorized > As School Opens Across America, So Do the Pocketbooks of Parents and Teachers… The Taxpayers? Not so much

As School Opens Across America, So Do the Pocketbooks of Parents and Teachers… The Taxpayers? Not so much

Early last month an Alternet post by Jeff Bryant described the horrific downshifting of costs from taxpayers to parents and teachers. Mr. Bryant offered several anecdotes from teachers and parents describing how deeply they need to dig into their pockets for school-related expenses and drew on data gathered by Communities in Schools, which he described as follows:

The annually compiled Backpack Index, which calculates the average cost of school supplies and school fees, reports parents face steep costs during back-to-school season: $662 for elementary school children, $1,001 for middle school children, and $1,489 for high school students.

These costs go beyond money for expendables like markers, notebooks, and graphing paper, and include valuable learning opportunities such as field trips, art and music programs, and athletics.

Middle-school parents face average costs of $195 for athletics, $75 for field trips, and $42 for other school activity fees. In high school, the fees spike much higher to $375 for athletics, $285 for musical instrumentals, $80 to participate in band, and $60 in other school activity fees. High school fees may also include academic courses such as Advanced Placement classes, which more schools are emphasizing. The average fee for tests related to these courses is $92. The costs of materials to prepare for these tests and the SAT average more than $52.

When I started my career as a school administrator in 1975, NONE of these fees were charged to ANY students in ANY school district in the Northeast. By 1981, when MA passed a property tax cap modeled on the one imposed on CA schools, athletic fees were emerging for HS students and we decided to replace our taxpayer-funded Drivers Ed program in our rural ME district with a fee-for-service model on the premise that parents would receive a direct financial benefit if their child passed a course. I recall the discussions on both of these issues as “a slippery slope”, with some parents and teachers foreseeing a day when more and more fees would be transferred from taxpayers with no children in school to parents… a day that is getting closer as we consider vouchers and further limitations on property taxes.

Despite the loss of school funding since the recession and the added costs and burdens to parents, there is no sign that cuts will stop any time soon. And, as Mr. Bryant explains, it is ultimately the children who suffer when these cuts are made… especially the children raised in poverty:

Who benefits when we cut school funding?

Slashing education budgets at the federal, state, or local level doesn’t save money; it just shifts costs somewhere else.

There’s no bold new paradigm in which little kids don’t need tissues to blow their noses or crayons to draw their first stick figures. Nor is there some bright new technology that eliminates the need for students to experience music or athletics by actually playing an instrument or having real sports equipment.

Someone has to pay for these things, or kids go without.

And the kids raised in poverty go without while the children raised in affluence get more and more. And after nearly a decade of this, we wonder why there is an economic divide and why many children give up altogether.

 

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