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Posted: August 01, 2011

What’s next on back-to-school supply lists? Mops and floor polish?


By Maureen Downey

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta, GA —

Given the number of cleaning products showing up on back-to-school school supply lists, a friend jokes that she expects to see mops, brooms and floor polish next.

Over the years, I’ve seen school supply lists go well beyond pencils, paper and glue to paper towels, Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer.

As the number of items on back-to-school lists have increased, so have complaints about them.

As a reader said in a note to me:

My friends are complaining the lists are very costly and they are being asked to buy multiples of items such a scissors. Are schools asking more of parents, are fewer parents sending supplies or are parents just more strapped for cash? I’ve just never seen so much chatter and my complaining friends live in the most affluent county in the state. I wonder if the lists are affecting families in other areas even more. Do parents become detached when they can’t even fill the first requests of the school?

On my neighborhood listserv, I learned that my local elementary school has adopted what News/Talk WSB personality and AJC columnist Neal Boortz derides as a conspiracy to inculcate children with a tolerance of government control of property rights: The teacher puts all school supplies into a common pool used by all students. (As one parent commented: “In other words, don’t buy your child the Spiderman folder; he’s not going to be able to use it.”)

This wasn’t the case when my four children went through elementary school. (And they attended at a time when the percentage of low-income students in the school was higher than it is today.) Yes, we bought tissues, paper towels, Ziplock bags and hand sanitizer to share, but kids kept their own folders, markers and pencils.

With all the financial challenges facing schools today, I am not going to quibble about back-to-school supply lists. I dutifully go out and buy everything that’s listed, even though I’ve found that some stuff never gets used. (I still have some two pocket/pronged folders and six pocket dividers with tabs sitting around.)

But the ever expanding lists have become a point of contention among some parents.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

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