That and $300 will get you some school supplies

Craig Hall, Publisher
Craig Hall, Publisher

My recall has me paraphrasing an old adage that I recall went something like, “… that and  10 cents will get you a cup of coffee.” Obviously this adage is much older than even my earliest recollections because a cup of coffee was 25 cents when I was a kid and there were unlimited refills.

Permit me to recall the splendid, innocent days of my youth when I went back to school. I went to a parochial grade school, so perhaps things were different than the public school experience. But one thing I don’t recall was my parents spending in inordinate amount of time or money on “supplies” for me or my classmates. I also don’t recall them buying me “first day of school” outfits, either. Then again, I was the youngest of four boys, so my first day outfit was whatever fit that wasn’t destroyed by three active, older brothers — probably something I haven’t gotten over to this day.

The only thing I recall from those days was the visit from my teacher for that year along with the principal, and my parents giving permission to paddle me or punish me as they saw fit based on my actions.

But back to the topic at hand, which are the required shopping lists for my kiddos to head back to school. In total, the lists added up to nearly 117 different items. Yes, some of the items are pencils that say 24 pre-sharpened pencils on one list and two 24 packs of pencils on the other, but you get the point. Also, FYI Mesa County School District 51: They only make 18, 36 and 72 packs of pre-sharpened pencils.

Speaking of going, what exited out of my wallet during the exercise would have been nearly $300 after adding in the beyond deployment troop quality backpacks to hold the bounty, much of which will return home in the same backpacks at year’s end. I am now the proud owner of countless sharpened and unsharpened No. 2 pencils, something we don’t use at home because my girls prefer mechanical pencils, which by the way I also have countless numbers of, all with no lead.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about District 51 and the lists it puts out for school supplies for families to buy. It’s my job as a  parent to put things in place for my daughters’ success, and buying school supplies certainly comes in under that umbrella. (Great, now I just reminded myself the girls will need new umbrellas since last year’s have been destroyed playing over the summer or are MIA.) And I have no problem buying supplies for other kids whose parents are struggling in these economic times. Obviously, many in our great community feel the same way, as the “Stuff the Bus” campaign proves each year and in their over generosity in buying more than the listed number of supplies to help out.

What I do have concerns about is a back-to-school-supplies receipt that is taller than my tallest in her second grade class, 4-foot-2 daughter and would be as tall as my 5-foot-3, very tall for her age seventh grader if I wasn’t able to supply some of the required items through my business inventory. And I have a serious problem with the cashier telling me this is the longest receipt he had seen for back to school shopping since the $2,600 receipt he rang up for one of our local teachers. Say what?

You heard that right. A local teacher spent moe than $2500 in getting their classroom ready with supplies for the coming year. Just how much education can we be focused on when having enough pencils or glue or disinfectant wipes for class are serious concerns to be met in preparing classrooms for our kids to start school?

Again, this is not on District 51, because these are the rules of the game under which our local district is forced to play. But what else can one expect when all of the school earmarked money goes to Denver first for Denver-controlled politicians to distribute? Truth is, our local schools and university have been doing more with less since the day I moved here. Is it because our kids and their educations are worth less? Absolutely not.

Here’s a thought. Instead of convening a panel to discuss what’s wrong with educational standards — that I’m sure will lead to a “blue-ribbon” panel down the line — let’s try this: We keep our money and educate our kids according to our standards with freedom of school choice inside our district. That way our education dollars and decisions don’t become a political football over which elected officials can act concerned.

I realize there are myriad problems with education costs — including athletics fees, kids who have no breakfast or lunch and after school programs for kids with parents who are working. But that’s my point. I believe we can do better making these decisions locally using our money.

Maybe then a local teacher would have $2,500 for her family, I’d be up $300, District 51 would have more than enough money for buildings, supplies and activities, and our kids would be richer in learning than we could ever imagine.