As we debate public education’s strengths and woes an article by reporter Carrie Yamato (carrieyamato@me.com) reports that parents of K-12 students in the Palos Verdes (CA) Unified School District are spending approximately the national average $700 sending their children back to school this fall.

If these numbers are correct, and I have no reason to doubt them, nationally $550 is spent on each elementary school student, $725 for middle school students, and $1,000 for high school students.  As reported, “The National Retail Association expects spending to increase $13 million to $83 million, making back-to-school shopping the second-biggest shopping event of the year after the holidays”.

I guess much of this spending is on clothing, yet when I visited Staples, Office Depot and independent retailers store managers told me parents come in with detailed shopping lists provided by public schools instructing what supplies each student must have opening day.  My sons graduated high school quite a while ago, so this is news to me.  Even while watching throngs of children and their parents lined up at checkout counters with shopping carts filled nearly to their brims it was hard to relate to today’s needs when all I was expected to take to school was a sharp pencil and simple notebook.

My school provided textbooks were covered by brown paper cut from shopping bags, as were those of my peers. I remember using my father’s slide rule for a senior year high school class when other students bought theirs. Today’s students are required to be equipped with backpacks, lunch gear, calculators, colored pencils, et al among other costly equipment.  When you add “must have” sneakers and other branded clothing the out-of-pocket cost of public education rises to that of my freshman year at the University of Maryland.

And this is when the worst place American children can get an education is in a public K-12 school.

Go figure.

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