Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Cost of a Free Education

My children go to public school. For one thing, I can't afford to pay college tuition prices for them to go to grade school. But even if I could, I wouldn't - because we have superior public schools where we live and I know they are getting a great education. However, this "free education" guaranteed to my children by the government is starting to break the bank around here.

First of all there's the cost of new clothes and shoes for them. Of course this is an expense I anticipate every year (because those darn kids keep growing!) and I try to spread it out by buying a little at a time. But it still ain't cheap. And they both needed new backpacks. Not wanted - needed - as in the old ones were filthy and worn out and had been used the past two years anyway.

Then there's school supplies. I was able to pre-order Daughter's school supplies - a great convenience offered by her school - and they cost about $35. Because she is in a program for gifted/talented students, she is "highly encouraged" to purchase all the novels they will be covering throughout the school year. So we did. $35 more. Little Son's school supplies also came pre-packaged - $65. And "oh-yeah-I-need-a-binder" - add $10. (Do you know you can get binders for $25???? Insane!)

So school begins. In the first week of school I wrote out $55 worth of checks for various class fees for Daughter's school. I then bought her approximately $30 worth of sewing supplies for Home Ec class. Her first Drama Festival is $3 per event - she is in 5 events. There's another check.

Then - THEN! - we're hit with the fundraisers!!! I bought a little something from Daughter's catalogue of goodies, but Little Son's school is selling "Butter Braids", which is frozen dough that bakes into a lovely pastry. For $10. Even Little Son agrees that's highway robbery. We'll not be purchasing one of those.

And it's also time for school pictures! I chose one of the lowest packages I could buy and still get pictures large enough to identify which child it was. Still came to $20. Each child. No, I didn't have to buy them, but what mom doesn't buy her kids' school pictures? The guilt would have eaten me alive. Now I'll at least have 1 5x7 picture to remember their 5th and 8th grade years by, and they can have the 500 postage-stamp sized pictures to hand out to their friends.

By the way, we skipped both Book Fairs. My credit wasn't good enough for the loan needed to pay for anything else.


D... said...

Please tell me I didn't miss the 8th grade pictures! Lamb never brought anything home.

I agree. The first month of school breaks the bank. And, I forgot to tell you. Bear's book fair starts next week. We didn't participate in Lamb's book fair.

The next drama fest is either going to interfere with Lamb's Sally Ride Science Fest or our Dallas getaway. No win situation for her.

Stacey said...

Do you just walk away wondering how anyone does this with a less than average income? I don't think life is possible!

I know about those binders and this year, I put the hammer down. H/S requires a binder for everything and I stripped last years binders at the year-end. Then I made them shop the cupboard in the basement and what do you know--I didn't buy any binders! xoxo

StaceyG said...

Girl, I am SO feeling your pain!! Between the PTA memberships, fundraisers, and school clothes, you definitely need a bank loan! So much for "free" education!!

Misty Dawn said...

Geesh that's a LOT of money!!! Just a suggestion/idea... if you are any good with a camera, you could take your own photos of the kids and print them up at WalMart... probably be much cheaper than the school's packages. Just an idea.

crazy working mom said...

Bless your heart! I know my time's comin'. :(

Patois said...

Love your comment about paying "college tuition prices" for grade school. Amen! It is outrageously expensive for us and all of their supplies -- except one binder for the 5th grader -- is provided. Yes, provided to them. The PTA foots the bill. And, yes, I give liberally to the PTA. But for fundraisers this year? No, no, no. I am not going to buy nor am I going to ask relatives to buy the gift wrap, fabulous as it is. This year, we're doing recycled comics and brown bags for wrapping paper. It's more eco-friendly. Not cheaper, though, 'cause I'm going to write another check to the PTA for the amount they have received if I'd been guilted into the wrapping paper scam.