Skip to comments.Can Public School Districts Require Parents to Buy Necessary School Supplies?
Posted on 08/24/2011 11:48:18 AM PDT by MichCapCon
All around the state, parents of public school children are engaged in an end-of-summer ritual: scouring the stores for school supplies. Many parents may feel they are required to.
They are wrong.
Under Michigan law, public schools are legally responsible to provide students with all necessary school supplies. Parents are not legally obligated to buy any educational items at all, whether pencils, pens, notebooks, glue, crayons or a litany of other classroom articles.
Public schools legal obligation regarding school supplies comes from the state constitutions Article 8, Section 2, which mandates, The legislature shall maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law. This language was reviewed by the Michigan Supreme Court in the 1970 case Bond v. Ann Arbor School District, where the court held, [I]t is clear that books and school supplies are an essential part of a system of free public elementary and secondary schools. This ruling covers supplies for all students, regardless of family income.
Indeed, the Michigan Department of Education has two documents on its website underscoring the public schools responsibilities to provide supplies. The first document, a 14-page position statement last updated in 2006, clearly stipulates, School districts may not make charges for any required or elective courses such as for: (a) General or registration fees[;] (b) Course fees or materials ticket charges[;] (c) Textbooks and school supplies, although districts may charge for extracurricular activities. The second document, a 2003 state Department of Education memo sent to every public school district and charter school, provides examples of items that the districts must provide free of charge for required or elective courses, including [p]encils, paper, crayons, scissors, glue sticks and [t]extbooks (regular or supplemental).
So the law is clear. Yet given some Michigan public school websites, parents could be forgiven for thinking that theyre on the hook for basic school supplies. Consider, for instance, the online shopping list of Waterford School Districts Beaumont Elementary School. The list includes the following language:
Below are generic grade level supply lists for this year. Please refer to the list of the grade level your child will be entering. At the Meet & Greet, your childs teacher may add an item or two, but the majority of the needed supplies are listed. We hope this helps with the back to school rush!
Every student needs a pair of clean, light-soled gym shoes to be left at school for physical education class. Please make sure they fit! Every student needs a backpack or book bag that will fit into a locker. Backpacks with wheels do not fit! Every student needs an old shirt to use as a paint shirt for art class.
Immediately below this language are separate supply lists for grades K-5, presented without further instruction or comment.
Now the school could respond that this Web page satisfies the letter of the law (the principal of the school did not return a phone call). After all, the main page hyperlink bringing readers to the online list refers to a suggested Back to School Shopping list; moreover, gym shoes are an item that the state Department of Education has argued (dubiously) that parents can be legally asked to provide. In addition, the school might conceivably have had other, more accurate communications with parents about school supplies.
But the page itself leaves the distinct impression that the lengthy grade-by-grade lists that follow are mandatory. The words needed supplies are used to describe the grade-by-grade lists, and the word needs appears repeatedly before those lists follow. Further, the fifth-grade list contains several items described as optional, reinforcing the impression that the other items are mandatory. In fact, if a parent printed the online list to take to the store, language indicating that the list wasnt mandatory would be nowhere in sight.
Parents might be similarly confused by the online student supply list for St. Clair High School in East China School District. Parents and Guardians of the schools students are told: The following pages contain items your student will need upon returning in the fall of 2011. We hope that by providing this list at this time, you and your student will be able to locate these necessary items.
Parents are also informed, When gathering or purchasing items for next school year, many items are for use in multiple classes and do not need to be purchased for each specific class" implying that they do nevertheless need to be purchased for at least one. Four pages of items for 10 school subjects then follow. One of the items is marked optional, while another is marked recommended, suggesting, as with Beaumont Elementary, that the other listed items are required.
In fairness, the list at one point states, [P]lease do your best to outfit your student with as many items as possible a hint that supply purchases might not be compulsory. And when questioned about the list by an editor for Michigan Capitol Confidential, St. Clair High School Principal Ronald Miller immediately volunteered that the school would freely provide all students with the school supplies they would need something he believed that the parents of his schools students were already well aware of.
It is also fair to note that the St. Clair High School main page text hyperlinking to the supply list twice describes the list as recommended but it is equally fair to note that the main page did not do so before Mr. Miller spoke to Michigan Capitol Confidential. Until sometime during the day of Aug. 22, the main page simply titled the list as the 2011-12 Student Supply List.
True, the main page, before it was altered, did include some ambiguous language such as describing the list as recommended/required that might indicate that purchasing the supplies was not mandatory. But unfortunately, the phrase recommended/required actually suggested the opposite when coupled with the optional and recommended items on the list itself. If two items were optional and recommended, then everything else, by implication, was required.
A random scan of other public school websites finds that while some are more explicit about acknowledging that the schools will provide all necessary supplies, others use potentially misleading language like needs and necessary in supply lists for parents.
Given that the law on this issue is so clear, an important question remains: Why should there be any ambiguity in districts website notices to parents about school supplies? In other words, why dont districts simply state: Our public school district is legally responsible for all your childrens necessary school supplies. Parents are not required to buy these supplies, though they may do so if they wish?
Sadly, it may be that some schools are reluctant to publicly commit themselves to such spending when they feel finances are tight. Tellingly, the 2003 State Department of Education memo about free school supplies hinted at a similar concern, observing, Given recent budget challenges, many local school districts are under pressure.
Yet districts have entirely legal means to liberate money for classroom supplies, including the privatization of noninstructional services. Districts could also provide less generous salaries and benefits to school employees during collective bargaining negotiations.
Parents are, of course, perfectly free to buy their childrens school supplies as a contribution to their school districts and to their childrens education. But public schools cannot and should not require parents to buy school supplies. Given the unequivocal state of the law on this issue, districts should ensure that school personnel are explicit in all their communications with parents that it is the schools, not the parents, who are responsible for outfitting students with the educational supplies that the children need to complete their schoolwork.
A friend of mine in Maine (a few years ago) said that his 1st grader went to school, all proud and excited to use the supplies his Mom and Dad bought for him, only to have the teacher tell all the kids to put their supplies in a box so she could be sure the poorer kids had supplies as well. Never too young to teach redistribution.
I suppose it would be poor form for a 1st grader to tell his teacher to ‘go to H-E-double hockey sticks’.
On the first day of school, maybe.
That is done here. It drives me up the wall! A box is put in the middle of a table where the little kindergartner’s sit and filled up with glue sticks, pencils, crayons etc for SHARING. Let’s be honest here, shall we? Sharing is another term for the parents who buy the stuff can provide for the dead beat parents who don’t. Some years back, my older daughter’s class kept sending home letters asking for glue sticks, crayons, pencils etc.. Finally, I sent a note stating that I will provide for MY CHILD ONLY.
YEP...me too....had one of those blue denim notebooks and would pile my books on top of it and carry them around.
Maybe a better reply would be to politely ask if additional lessons during the year would be given on the subject of theft by public officials.
We had that happen in one of our schools too.
So it’s trickery. So what? The cops do it. It’s trickery in defense of the taxpayer for a change.
I resent feeding other people’s kids three meals a day at school, and I don’t see why it’s on me to buy your kid a backpack.
If you can’t buy your kid a couple pens and lunch because you spend all your money on your iPhone, maybe you should think about relinquishing your children to somebody who’ll provide for them.
We always make sure our child’s name is printed clearly on all the materials, in case the teacher tries this socialistic redistribution scheme.
In other times and places, not so long ago, parents furnished all the supplies for their kids, plus they paid a “fee” of a few dollars per year to help pay for general supplies the teachers used. Parents also bought the kids’ books and sold or traded in the used ones from prior years.
it’s never too early to indoctrinate the skulls full of mush in the art or redistributing wealth. This is more sickening now than it was when I was a kid (many moons ago), however the recipients are the same people. I went to grade school in the 40’s and ALL of my black friends (I had many) had two parents.....I would eat a weekend lunch at their house or they would eat at my house. Their parents were in charge when I was there and my parents were in charge when we were at my house....no one ever questioned that. As time went by, things changed, black families were taught that they could not make it on their own and that the government was there to help them.....furthermore they bought it.As I grew into adulthood I heard more and more excuses as to why welfare systems, food stamps, handouts, were becoming commonplace. Black boys and girls started cranking out kids with no hope whatsoever because they did not have intact families. Suddenly black kids couldn’t do as well in school as whites....perhaps because they were being raised in one parent (mama) households by a parent who herself had dropped out of school. It is pathetic to watch this happening before your eyes and as far as I can see, it is getting worse.....no, Maxine Waters, the problem is NOT the tea party, the problem is that your own people refuse to accept responsibility for their own problems and try to foist them off on accusations of racism, etc......pathetic
They don’t make our kids do this anymore out here in Forsyth. But they have begged for classroom supplies like pencil sharpeners.
Didn’t complain about this. The teacher’s classroom budget was cut as part of balancing the state budget - which IS balanced. I’ll forgive ‘em a pencil sharpener or two for that.
It’s the same in Jefferson County, Ky. Parents buy two of everything then redistributed to the students. Parents are then later called upon to replenish supplies when necessary. Needless ro say, I didn’t buy anything fancy. It’s a lesson in how socialism and mediocrity go hand in hand.
Exactly! My grandson just started 1st grade and we had to get him 48-#2 pencils. REALLY?? There are 26 children in his class, so that comes to 1,284 pencils for just their class! I need to check and see if Colorado has a law similar to the one in the article.
IF the government can require you to get health insurance, THEN they can require you to pay the tuition at a fancy private school and cover all of the associated expenses.
We need a system of private education, competition will certainly have schools that provide everything.
They tried that crap on me with my kid exactly once. We were at the "Meet The Teachers Day" and I asked what gave them the legal right to steal the school supplies I'd purchased for my child.
The teacher looked like I'd hit her with a shovel. "We don't consider it stealing." she replied. I said "What else do you call it when you take someone's property away from them and give it to someone else?"
She looked like I'd hit her with a shovel. My son was squirming in his chair saying "Dad, it's no big deal."
"It's a very big deal, son. Stealing is stealing no matter who is doing it or why."
That was the last time I dealt with that crap.
Redistribution is widely taught where I live as well.
Wow...mountains being made of molehills.
Contrary to some of the other posts, I’m glad to provide all that my child needs to get a good education. When buying supplies this year I also bought extras in case some child was without. The kids shouldn’t have to suffer because of parent’s inability to pay or because we as adults disagree with the politcal or tax policy of our districts and states.
Very laudable and charitable. But what makes it great, it that it was your idea, your decision, not one forced upon you. You can see the difference, right?
You are just like me, Cmybaline! I put my child’s name on everything.. lunch box, backpack, pencils, glue sticks, rulers, etc... If it isn’t big enough for a full name then I go with initials.
“... balancing the state budget - which is balanced”
I agree. With my first child, I was more naive.... I just kept sending the stuff in. Time after time after time. Finally, I questioned my son... “I just sent in THREE glue sticks and four pencils. Did you eat them? Where are they?” It was then that he told me the teacher handed them out to another child (an illegal). I had one of those “you got to be kidding me” moments and sent in a not too nice note. At that point, I had literally sent in about forty glue sticks and thirty pencils.
All my years in school, all I had were my two hands. HTH did I survive?
You had a desk that you could leave your stuff in. Some schools require the kids to tote their stuff from place to place.
I already put in my two cents worth on a different thread regarding this subject so I won’t repeat myself except to say NONSENSE to making our families/kids responsible for the irresponsible.
This may be off the subject but it’s something that came to my mind yesterday. We were with our daughter and 2 year old grandson at a city park. Little kids - all colors/races, except we WERE the only white people there.
The little ones played on the playground equipment, hollered, ran, laughed and had fun together. How much longer will it be when these same kids are a few years older and the friendship they exhibited on the playground will no longer be visible? I believe the way things are going now, relations will be a lot different and won’t be pretty - thanks to obozo and types like Maxine Waters.
More mayors like Philadelphia has need to start speaking up and putting an end to the mentality (thanks to sharpton/jackson types) that the blacks don’t have responsibilities in this country. They need only scream “racism” and think everyone will shut up about the behavior. It’s clear the parents or PARENT aren’t going to take the matter seriously so the community has to get the point across some way or other.
Will our younger generations be able to form friendships with different races or will the politicians and race baiters have their way and the division will be irreversible? I think it’s pretty clear what’s in store.
My daughter came home with a list of school supplies which included things like “2 rolls of paper towels, 2 boxes of Kleen-x,” etc. I was incredulous. They weren’t basic supplies like pencils, glue or scissors for her personal use, but supplies for the whole classroom. My response was not polite so I won’t print it. I will say it had an “f” word, “illegal,” “alien” and “taxes” in it. One school she went to the entire school got free breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack. The magnet program was there no doubt to make the school’s test scores look better. The major demographic was anchor baby. If they’d have ever redistributed my daughter’s supplies I would have been on them faster than white on rice. Thank God I was able to mostly home school her.
I did have to have a conversation with a gym teacher that thought it was perfectly acceptable to confiscate her backpack just to organize it and be surprised my daughter got practically hysterical and went off on her. “Hey, stupid lady, she lost everything she owned a couple years ago- toys, clothes, pets, etc. Her back pack she can take with her wherever she goes. It’s rather personal to her as the only thing she has with her all the time she’s not going to lose. Might want to think about things before you willy nilly pull your dictatorial, liberal crap. No, being lippy isn’t right, but under the circumstances, what would you expect?” (I was considerably more diplomatic and polite.)
Parents who cannot feed, clothe and otherwise raise their children despite school lunches and food stamps and welfare funds should not be allowed to have children.
I have my son keep his extra supplies in a dad-provided lock-box.
Here is a new one. I thought that the taxpayers were already paying for those things. If not, than what are the tax dollars paying for?
Whether it is required or not, if parents don’t buy supplies usually the teacher buys them out of their pocket. It is a racket though, when I was in school in Arizona everything was furnished until I was in high school.
My kids went to school in New Mexico and we had to buy everything- including one year parents even had to send a package of toilet paper and can of lysol...not joking.
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Many of those things were things that I recall needing to bring in myself.
The problem is, however, if the school has already been allocated funds to purchase those things for the kids, they have no business asking the parents to buy them as well.
I think it is a great idea! It is time parents started paying their own children's school tuition ( oops! bus fee).
Hopefully, the government school tuition ( oops! school bus, activities, and supplies fees) will grow large enough that private alternatives will start making financial sense to enterprising private teachers and tutors.
Hm?....Let's say the government school tuition (oops! bus and activities fees) rises to $1,000 or $1,500 a year. At that point it will begin make sense for a truly dedicated and gifted teacher to open a one-room school in her home. Or for an existing day care center to add a few school grades to the services they offer.
>>Contrary to some of the other posts, Im glad to provide all that my child needs to get a good education<<
So do I. I homeschool. None of that “redistribution” crap.
If someone is in the public school and they don’t have a pencil, let the teacher (who gets a tax break for the school supplies and special discount days to buy them with the money I give her out of my property taxes) provided it out of the cash each one is given for “supplies”.
Small-L libertarian radio talk show host Neal Boortz has been on top of the school supplies confiscation and redistribution issue for many, many years. The oldest article I could quickly find on the topic goes back almost a decade, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we had the full Nealz Nuze archives (his daily show notes) we could find something that goes back two decades.
Neal Boortz - Brainwashing 101
Worth reading, as Neal nicely covers the big picture here.
FreedomPoster, can I just vent for one second? On my daughter’s first day of Kindergarten, all of her supplies were confiscated. Now... I had her supplies with her name on it AND a separate bag of supplies for the socialist class. The teacher took both. My little one was so upset. You see, she picked out the pencils herself... a Hello Kitty one, a pretty pink glitter one, a pencil with little doggie prints on it. We’re not done with this... we plan on bringing it up on the first parent teacher conference. (we would sooner but we didn’t want her targeted since she is having somewhat a difficult time being away from home anyways). You can bet one thing: I’m not sending in another thing. Let the other “do good parents” do it for the ones who are already on WIC, free lunches, reduced housing, Casa De Maryland and all that other crap.
Thanks, FreedomPoster, I need a vent!
I don't want to live under a government that 'allows' citizens to have children or not.
(I agree with your sentiment, however)
Sounds pretty typical.
When I listened to Boortz regularly (years ago; I found after becoming a regular on FR that I didn’t get much new information there), he would always get callers backing him up on this story, as you have here. It’s everywhere. I bet they teach doing this in Elementary Education classes in the Colleges of Education across the country.
Here is something that will just make you shake your head. In our County, there is a “school exhibit”... nice term for one day prior to the start of school where every low income kid in the county receives a brand new backpack filled with what they would need. Crayons, colored pencils, pencils, folders etc... Our County has a HUGE population of illegals. First day of school... the supplies are taken from the children. Guess which kids didn’t bring their supplies in to be “re-distributed?” You guess it. I assume they just keep them at home. They showed up with their free backpack and not so much as ONE pencil in it. So, we are duped twice in a way. Our taxes go to providing the freebies. Then OUR supplies (that we pay for out of our budget and salary) are again handed out to them.
I’m not anywhere done with this issue. I have simply decided when an appropriate setting/time would be to address it. That being said, it will be a cold day in Hades before I send in another bunch of pencils, crayons, colored pencils, or glue sticks. Makes me mad enough that I want to just spit.
Good; you should be; recruit your friends to be mad with you and organize.
I wonder how much of the "redistribution" crap is really so the teacher can pocket the allowance they get for classroom supplies?
Not to sound like I am weak but we are in a bit of a tricky position right now. Our five year old is having somewhat a difficult time adjusting to all day kindergarten. (I will say by Friday she was A-okay but it was a heck of a week). I know the teacher somewhat personally... that is, she was a fantastic teacher for our older two kids when they had her. I think it has become a County wide policy and the teacher/principal can’t disobey a county rule. My plan on questioning this practice can be done with cooler heads (uh, mine) and in a setting where it is just the teacher and us (husband and me). Now, if this is a count wide policy, my “school supply days” are over. I will hide an extra pencil for my child in her backpack. If it is a school policy (one that can be enforced or not) then my letter to the principal will follow. Since I know the teacher for many years, I know she isn’t the type of woman to just come up with this on her own.
I have the strong feeling that since so many other states have a similar policy, it must be the liberal education view/policy instead of a school to school one.
First, thank you for posting the entire article. I’ve consciously avoided your articles in the past because they were excerpted.
After reading the whole article, I come away with one thought: yep, the government schools are entirely broken. Michigan residents pay high property taxes (the sales tax deal was a joke). For those high taxes, they get theft, indoctrination, and a so-so babysitting service that provides a perfect example to Michigan children why the government favors people who are entirely dependent on it.
(BTW, back in the 70’s when I attended Michigan schools, there were supply lists. Some supplies we kept; others went into a common bin.)
Now there's the million dollar point. Here in NE Ohio all the local school districts have deals with Walmart etc - there are posted supply lists for each school right in the back-to-school section for one-stop shopping. In contrast, we know someone who teaches at one of the inner city Cleveland schools who has to buy toilet paper for her own classroom, and often spends her own money to make sure her students have what they need.
Meanwhile here in our district, which receives benefit of my tax dollars while I homeschool, they are claiming financial crisis despite 3.5 million in cuts over the last 3 years and passage of a "much-needed" levy last year. This levy was on the ballot in 2009 and the school district claimed they would have to eliminate high school busing if it didn't pass. It failed, they took away high school busing in 2010, and the levy passed that November, but of course busing didn't return in 2011. Now they're talking of needing another 3 levies totaling 8.5 million over the next five years to get out of the red, which means about 500 bucks more a year in property taxes for me.
For pete's sake, where does all the money go? Oh wait, there's still a teacher's union.
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