Monday, September 8, 2008

"I see a bleak future if public funding for school districts doesn't change"

Along with stocking their children's backpacks, parents are increasingly helping teachers fill their cash-strapped classrooms with glue sticks, markers, hand sanitizers, toilet paper, and other basic materials once covered by school budgets.

Many teachers sent out the pleas last month before the first day of school as part of welcoming letters. Others handed out the lists last week on opening day. And a growing number, such as those at Chelmsford's Harrington Elementary this year, posted requests on school websites, saving money on postage and paper.

The lists are another telltale sign of how budget-cutting in recent years has affected the pocketbooks of parents, coming on top of the hundreds of dollars they spend annually on ever-increasing fees for school lunches, sports, after-school programs, and buses.

With household budgets this year stretched thin by rising grocery and fuel prices, parents are questioning how much longer they can keep giving.

"Parents are starting to feel like a piggy bank," said Holly Ewart-O'Neall, the mother of a second-grader and cochairman of the Worcester Arts Magnet School's parent-teacher group, which experienced a decline last year in fund-raising revenue that sometimes goes toward supplies.

School districts, wanting to avoid cuts to staff and programs, have been spending less on classroom supplies and materials during this economically turbulent decade. Statewide, school district expenditures on instructional supplies and materials, including textbooks, dropped 4.3 percent between fiscal years 2002 and 2007 to $334.7 million, despite a dramatic increase in the cost of many items.

Read the full article from the Boston Globe here

This is one area where Franklin School policy prohibits teachers from asking parents to contribute to the classroom. Do parents still contribute? Yes. Many of them know the situation is tight and will offer to bring in items used in the classrooms. In some cases, the teachers themselves make up the shortfall.

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