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Lindsay Hanson Metcalf: We shouldn’t have to save our schools with candy bars and gift wrap

Lindsay Metcalf and her sons, Quinn and Bennett
Lindsay Metcalf and her sons, Quinn and Bennett rsugg@kcstar.com

Fall brings a deluge of student solicitors to our door.

The secret must be out that we’re suckers, because this year we have bought trash bags from choir students for a California trip, popcorn from Boy Scouts, fruit from Future Farmers of America, cookies from high school dancers and Booster Club cookout tickets from volleyball players.

I get it. As a kid I sold my way to a civics trip in Washington, D.C., to New York for drama club. I learned a ton and am happy to pay it forward.

Now we have a new dimension. This month, Mr. Kindergartner brought home his own fundraising packet.

“I want to sell 12 things so I can get three Minion key chains,” he said.

My 5-year-old isn’t selling for a club. He has been asked by his school’s parent-teacher group to hawk gift wrap, beef sticks and soup packets to pay for various needs in his school.

Educators have long spent their own money on supplies. Last year the average was about $500 per teacher, according to the National School Supply and Equipment Association. In the era of state school funding cuts, anecdotes make the deficits real.

A woman I know, Jessica Seeliger, made her local paper recently when she asked her state representative to buy chocolate bars from her daughter. Her kindergartner had been tasked with selling the $1 bars to help her Wellington, Kan., elementary school. State Rep. Kyle Hoffman, a Republican from Coldwater, obliged with a $3 order. (Seeliger never heard back from Gov. Sam Brownback or her state senator, Republican Steve Abrams.)

Teachers sometimes do their own soliciting to fill classroom needs. In the Concordia school district where we live, Mr. Kindergartner’s teacher, Amy Marcotte, recently received a grant through DonorsChoose.org for a listening center. Twelve donors gave $586 for a CD player with six headphone jacks and a set of books on CD. Other teachers in our school have asked donors to pay for items such as alphabet area rugs.

A quick search on DonorsChoose.org, the fundraising site for teachers, brings up more than 160 project requests from educators in the Kansas City area. Some are asking for laptops or iPads. Angela Chambers, a Center Middle School seventh-grade resource teacher for students with autism, needs $247 for bean bag chairs, an electric pencil sharpener, tape, pens and scissors.

“Most of my students do not have the basic school supplies they need to be successful,” Chambers wrote in her $247 request. “Our district is also dealing with increased budget cuts, and resources for extra materials is very limited at this time.”

The school funding outlook could change with a new election cycle. But in the scope of a child’s education that’s plenty of time to fall behind.

In the meantime the recipients of the trickle-down effect continue to scratch out a solid education with whatever resources they can find. For teachers, that means asking for money. For me, that means swallowing my pride, selling $9.50-a-roll wrapping paper and helping my son earn his Minion key chains.

Freelancer Lindsay Hanson Metcalf lives with her husband and two boys in Concordia, Kan.

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