Friday, September 18, 2009

More on paying for school

Remember that post I had about paying for public school? Well, here's another suggestion that parents pay for laptops. I've been noting the many things I'm paying for that are not covered by the school. The PTO asks all of us to contribute, trying to raise close to $30k for cultural programs and other activities. Now, it's true that if that money suddenly disappeared, it would be a big loss, but the school would still function. At the very least, almost everyone pays dues in order to get the directory. That's $15. I also pay dues at another school. Another $15. I pay for field trips, which this year, will cost me about $100 because the 5th graders go on a big trip. I pay for school supplies, another $100 altogether for both kids. The soccer team booster club wants me to pay them $70. I'm not entirely sure what for. And there's the cleats and shinguards and socks I've had to buy, well over $100. I'm paying $10 for a new music book for Geeky Girl who's continuing to play the violin this year. Oh, and I'm paying about $15/month to rent the violin itself.

And I'm not counting all the extra things we do in order to boost the kids' intellectual abilities: computers in the home, museum memberships, buying books, sending them to camp. And I'm not counting keeping them clothed and fed, also expensive.

Sure, I could choose not to let Geeky Girl play the violin or Geeky Boy play soccer. Those are optional, but they're also really good for the kids. I can't put a price tag on the skills they're both learning from those activities. And really, it's hard to put a price tag on school itself. I can't imagine what it must be like for a family who struggles to buy the school supplies and who doesn't even think about their kids playing a sport or a musical instrument because it's cost prohibitive. When colleges increasingly look at what my mom used to call the "left side of the folder" at the activities kids are involved in to differentiate themselves from all the other applicants, kids who don't have those are at a disadvantage.

As I said before, I know public schools are strapped for cash and some are more strapped than others. The ones that are most strapped are the very places where many parents can't afford the extras, so asking parents to pick up the tab for more and more of the things that schools feel are necessary is just wrong. It just increases the gap between the school haves and have nots. Yes, it's true that referendums to increase taxes to benefit schools often fail. Someone needs to work more on the argument that having good schools is good for everyone.