Sticker Shock
posted by Amy

Our oldest starts middle school next week, so we've been shopping. Only so far we've spent over $100, and we haven't even gotten to new clothes or shoes. With two more kids starting school the day after Labor Day as well, I'm starting to panic a bit about the financial impact.

We all went to the middle school's orientation last week, where we emptied our collective wallets (me, his dad, and his mom were all there) to purchase gym clothes and a September bus pass for the city bus he'll take to and from school. No busing is provided for 7-12 graders in our district, which means major traffic jams in the magnet schools' parking lots. Student passes, which have been $34, are being raised to $42.50.

His mom picked up a supply list from his language arts/history teacher, so I got started on that a few days later. After purchasing 8 of the 16 "REQUIRED! STUDENTS MUST HAVE THESE!" supplies, I was down another $50. I still have to get the rest of the list, plus whatever the other four teachers he'll have might require.

Did I mention we haven't bought the kid any clothes for school yet? And that he's growing like a weed and currently has hardly anything that fits him? Or the other two kids who also need school supplies and jeans that fit and/or don't have giant gaping holes in more than two places?

For my family, these costs are inconveniences. We'll be fine; we can cut some costs and suck it up and start including the $42.50/month bus pass in our monthly budget. A little forewarning would have been nice, but the schools don't have control over our local transit system's current chaos, and so I can't blame them for not being able to tell us, even at orientation, how much the bus pass would be next month.

I've gotta think, though, that there are plenty of people around who are going to have trouble coming up with that much money for supplies and transportation. I'm guessing that some of these people are working at jobs with inflexible hours which may not allow them to take their kids to school by car. I'm guessing that it feels pretty awful to not be able to buy all the supplies on the list and to be worrying about how the kid is going to get to school.

This is an old, often-heard complaint, I know. But isn't it possible that providing transportation and supplies to teachers and kids in PUBLIC SCHOOLS should be a community's priority? Maybe even, say, a COUNTRY'S priority? If we require kids to go to school, shouldn't we make sure they can get there and have what they need to do the work there?

All right. /rant. Now I have to go find those other 8 items on that darn supply list so I'll be caught up before the other lists come home next week.