SEATTLE – The countdown is on for schools to reopen, with many school districts already back in class. Some parent-teacher associations go to great lengths to ensure that children can start out as strong and on an equal footing as possible. One of the ways they work to make this happen is by using school supplies.
Parents have said that when it comes to back-to-school purchases, the bills per child add up quickly.
“Oh my gosh, at least $ 100 just to get started,” said Amber, mom of a John Muir student.
“School supplies are expensive,” said Catherine Seaver, who is part of the John Muir PTA.
About half a dozen schools in South Seattle currently have PTA or PTSA programs that are helping. In John Muir, the PTA collects money from families on a sliding scale, then purchases school supplies for all students. Teachers make a list at the end of each school year, and the PTA orders all binders, markers, notebooks – name it – before school starts in the fall.
“Buying it in bulk saves us a tremendous amount. So instead of $ 75 per child, it’s about $ 30, ”Seaver said.
John Muir’s teachers on Thursday collected supplies for their students, who will be waiting for them in their classrooms.
“Any help, help,” Amber said.
“It’s really nice not having to think about it at all,” said Karen Woodburn, who has just joined the John Muir PTA.
Beyond saving money for families, the program focuses on equity.
John Muir is a Title 1 school which means there is a high number of low income students. According to data from Seattle Public Schools, last year 63% of John Muir’s 369 students were in the low-income category. The school is also diverse; 84% are students of color and 16% are white.
Kate Schueler teaches reading to John Muir.
“It’s a huge piece of fairness. It takes a huge, huge burden off families, ”said Schueler. “It also eliminates the problem, you know, a student has the pack of eight pencils and a student has the pack of 64 pencils. Thus, children feel more confident and less compelled to navigate this social part, ”she said.
Parents have said the competition part is more important than you might think.
“It’s a big deal, you know. And then some things like the movies – Space Jam just released, Spider-Man – they want them, ”said Arlene Grayer, a grandparent.
But when children have the same quality-controlled supplies, the focus can be on learning.
“The kids who benefit the most are the ones who have nothing, so I totally agree,” Amber said.
The parents behind the effort also recognize that not all schools have PTAs with parents who have enough resources to launch programs like this.
“Because just having the time to fundraise – it’s all based on class and race,” Seaver said. “It’s a messed up system. It’s valuable work, but it totally demands privilege in every way, ”she said.
Seaver said the main mission of the PTA is to advocate for children furthest from educational justice.
“And it’s such an easy way to introduce ourselves for our families,” she said.
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