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Why Must Half-Day Kindergartners Spend Over $100 for School Supplies?

Updated on August 18, 2012

The Cost and Nature of School Supplies

From the beginning of August each year to mid-September, retailers in the United States offer discount sales on school supplies. Some states and communities allow the retailers to skip the sales tax fro a week during such a sale. Other retailers partner with school districts in order to compile School Supply Packets at discount prices for sale at the school in a School Supplies Event before the academic year begins.

Smart retailers include the backpack that most grade levels in my state now require - "no wheels, please." All of the school supplies packet is packed into the backpack for easy takeaway or the families, without the hassle of ensuring that the students come up with the correct brand of marker or pencil. Brand names cause consternation among some parents that put together their own supplies for their students and substitute store brands and find that the school absolutely will not accept them. In a few school districts, bringing the incorrect supplies to school affects school registration and grades the child might receive.

Free School Supply Giveaways in my city help some families with the brand name dilemma, because the packet of supplies are donated strictly according to the required list of supplies published by each school district. With over 1/3 of my large city's children receiving assistance from Food Stamps (SNAP), it is easy to see why some families cannot purchase the more expensive brand names.


Some families are able to purchase School Supply Packs online from Amazon at a discounted rate and based on Crayola products. Crayola is the brand required by the school district whose school supply list I obtained. This Crayola based included crayons, markers of three types, and colored pencils. Fiskars is the brand of blunt metal scissors required (metal scissors in K sounds dangerous to me, despite the bluntness).

Kindergarten was not mandatory during my school years. In first grade, we needed only an 8-pack of the big fat "kids' crayons", two overly fat black pencils that did nothing for our fine motor movements either, a jar of paste, lined first-grade writing paper, a ruler, a pack of manila drawing paper, an eraser, and a small pair of plastic scissors.

My grandfather and father both had only a few pencils, a writing tablet of some sort, a small slate, and some chalk.

Why So Much For Kindergarten?

Noticing that many parents were complaining in my community about Kindergarten school supplies for the upcoming school year, I picked up a copy of the required products. The list was surprising.

For a class of 28 students attending Kindergarten from either 9:00 AM - Noon or 12:30PM - 3:30PM, the list below was astounding. Notice that the teachers handle two different classes daily, with only 30 minutes in between. Each class attempts to maintain two Minimum-Wage classroom aides to help the teacher, making a child-to-adult ratio of over 9 to 1.

School Supply List for Half-Day Kindergarten In One School District

These items are needed every day, no exceptions. On the first day of school, please have the required supplies packed into the soft-sided pencil case and the pencil case packed inside of the backpack with the other supplies listed for the backpack, and the backpack closed securely.

  • 1 large, sturdy school bag (absolutely no wheels) that closes easily. Please do not have or allow your child to attach any toys, trinkets, carbingers, or zipper pulls to the bag.
  • 1 set of good quality headphones (no ear buds) that fit your child's head. These will be used all year and must be replaced if lost or broken. Please place your child's name on the headset by some permanent means.
  • 1 hardback 3-ring binder, 1/2" size. Please label with child's name.
  • 4 boxes of 24-pack thin Crayola crayons, regular - no scented, sparkle, or neon colors.
  • 2 10-count boxes of Crayola Classic Colors Washable Markers, thin.
  • 1 12-count box Crayola colored pencils.
  • 1 8-pack dry erase markers, unscented, no neon colors.
  • 2 yellow highlighters.
  • 1 Prang brand watercolor paints.
  • 1 Crayola brand watercolor paints.
  • 7 large glue sticks.
  • 2 two-pocket folders in plain colors without designs or pictures, with paper-clasps inside.
  • 1 two-pocket folder, plain, without paper-clasps, for bringing important papers back and forth to school and home.
  • 1 sturdy but soft pencil case large enough to hold pencils, glue sticks, eraser, scissors, and markers - no boxes of any type will be permitted.
  • 2 sharpened #2 pencils daily.
  • 2 large pink rubber erasers.
  • 3 plain-covered one-subject wide-ruled spiral notebooks (in 3 different colors)
  • 1 FISKARS brand pair of metal children's scissors

Outside the backpack in a shopping bag:

  • 1 long-sleeved, over-sized shirt to wear during Art Classes. This should cover your child to below the knees, but not be long enough to cause tripping and falling.
  • 1 LARGE or DOUBLE roll of paper towels
  • 1 CANISTER of Clorox Disinfectant Wipes
  • 1 8-ounce bottle hand sanitizer.
  • 1 8-ounce bottle Elmer's Glue.
  • 1 box of gallon size Ziploc Freezer bags
  • 1 box of quart size Ziploc Freezer bags
  • 1 LARGE box of tissues (250 count).

Some other Kindergarten classes also request paper napkins, paper plates, Post-It Notes, pre-packaged snacks, and juice boxes.


Local families wonder why the school districts cannot provide some of these materials and also, exactly how low-paid are the teachers? Some families would like to see teachers paid less and school districts use the savings to supply some of the things listed above. This is a sore point every year.

In a Kindergarten year of 179 or 180 days at 3 hours per day attendance, can all of the materials listed above even be used? Probably not, since a nap and a snack time are subtracted from the 3 hours. Learning takes up perhaps 2.5 hours a day. Subtract another 30 minutes for singing, dancing, and other physical learning, and we are left with 2 hours per day for using markers and paper and the like. Of course, uncapped markers dry up, pencils are tossed away or broken, etc. Families notice all this.

The resulting figures of an investigation have convinced some families to home school their children in order to avoid high costs of school attendance.

Teacher's Salaries

Many teachers report that they purchase extra supplies for their classrooms, especially when in the midst of an important learning project which the school will not help to fund. Let us look at teacher's salaries in Columbus Public Schools for the past several years:

Teacher's Salaries In this School District, Including Kindergarten

Academic Year
Salary for a BA Degree, Min - Max
2010 - 2011
$40,123 to $66,897
2009 - 2010
$39,011 to $65,043
2008 - 2009
$37,930 to $63,241
2007 - 2008
$36,879 to $61,489
Data from the Ohio Education Association

The average salary for teachers in this Central Ohio school district for the year 2011 - 2012 was $49,000. Teachers possessing Master's Degrees receive higher pay. At the same time, a teacher in this state must have earned a Master's Degree within 10 years of the Bachelor Degree and beginning to teach, else lose their position.

According to government data at the BLS, the 2012 average salary in this Ohio district is $36,790. This is less than the salaries earned by teachers, including Kindergarten teachers - almost $4,000 per year less than the teacher minimum in this Northern Columbus district.

Some families are angry that teacher's earn more than these families' household income, yet the school district requires so much outlay in school supplies.

Will Crayola be on the moon?
Will Crayola be on the moon?


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      Thanks, RTalloni. With all our comments, maybe they will voice their unhappiness with this outrage.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      All this truly outrageous stuff goes on and on because parents allow it.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      I'd forgotten about all the fundraising and it's outrageous!

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 5 years ago

      When you say the list of supplies is excessive you are being too kind. It's outrageous. I can't believe the amount of "stuff" that these kids have to haul around. They literally look like they are leaving for an extended vacation. I also think the amount of fundraising that goes on is excessive. Every single day parents are being bombarded with a list of products to buy or causes to support. It is just too much. Up all the way.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Interesting hub that has generated interesting comments!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      Many people agree with you, tamron!

    • tamron profile image

      tamron 5 years ago

      Whats with all the tissues and whips and zip lock bags? It seems like they are expecting a flu breakout.

      I think that is way to much responsibility for a child that age and I also think a child should not have to carry all that weight.

      What happens if your child loses or gets their book bag stolen. Its bad enough having to buy all that stuff the first time but you can't hardly blame a child of that age if they lost their book bag.

      I don't know what these people are thinking!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      I think you may be correct, Bruce A. Beaudet.

    • Bruce A. Beaudet profile image

      Bruce A. Beaudet 5 years ago from Canada

      Given the digital age, I wonder if pens,pencils,crayons etc. will be replaced by tablets,phones,laptops etc. on the school "supply list" in the not too distant future? If so, $100 will sound like a bargain. ;)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      I forgot the benefits as well. That's a lot of money. I wonder how much union dues cost?

      Our Superintendent of schools makes too much money, according to several pundits and parents. Admin costs like that could come down.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      I forgot that's plus benefits of $37,332.00. Voted Up.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      The parents are supplying the teacher's closet. There is no way a kindergartner is going to use highlighters like someone else said. This has been going on here for a long time. One year my daughter had to supply 50 pencils for each of her grade school children. She wouldn’t have complained but, that was added onto all the other stuff she had to buy. When she ask why, she was told there were kids that came to school without pencils or supplies and as a parent she should help those kids. Their asking this of parents that are barely just making ends meet. Salary here is $61,332.00 grade school teachers. This is a small school district. I don’t expect teachers to buy supplies but I also don’t expect them to ask parents to supply all this extra stuff when they’re already paying high school taxes. Where is all the money the school district is getting going? I wonder.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      The more I hear from teachers, parents, and other people, the more I know that this list of supplies is incredible.

      DrMark1961 - That's an interesting question. I stopped carrying any type of shoulder bag after college, because backpacks and purses were making our shoulders of different heights, bending the spine.

      donnah75 - The preparation review books can be pretty expensive. I like your idea about complaining to the schools boards.

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      I am astonished at that list! Although I don't advocate for paying teacher less, I understand the frustration you convey. As a teacher, I do my best to keep the needed supplies to a minimum. Granted, I am not a kindergarten teacher, but I can't see how they could use all of those supplies either. In NYS, students used to have to purchase review books in HS to help prepare for exams. This created an unfair situation for families who couldn't afford it. The state changed the regulations, I believe, because now our district provides those books to students, like all other texts. It sounds like parents need to show up at a school board meeting to complain. Interesting hub.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 5 years ago

      Wow! My daughter is going into 4th grade. She has nowhere near this amount of school supplies on her list. It's a shame schools can't provide some basic supplies. My sister-in-law is a teacher and she buys a lot of supplies for her classroom because the school won't. It's a shame.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      That is really sad. They think less noise in the halls justifies a classroom full of hunchbacks? I wonder if any studies have been done about the relationship of childhood obesity to heavy backpacks and sore backs?

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Interesting! I think it all varies from one district to another. Years ago when I accepted a job teaching school in a SC school district, I had to spend at least $50 bucks of my own money to open school. This was for the barest of necessities. Otherwise, it would have been impossible to have any semblance of a lesson. A couple of years later, the superintendent was fired for misappropriated funds.

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 5 years ago

      Really? what does a kindergartner need highlighters for? other things on that list are unnecessary as well but highlighters sick out most to me. I've been an aide in a kindergarten class before and worked as an art and crafts instructor at a boys and girls club. Five year olds don't need all that stuff to learn and enjoy school. And since when do parents have to buy the school's cleaning supplies! geez... I'm on the fence about homeschooling and this is certainly something to add to my list to think about. voted up and interesting.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      The schools here want to cut down on the noise of the wheels and the traffic jams and fights caused by the 28 students all with wheeled packs colliding. I will say that a lot of the schools are teaching kids how to wear the packs and stopping them from carrying extra weight. But the 5-year-olds still look weighted down to me.

      The branding phenomena is true enough. Off-brand crayons are sometimes pretty cheap and useless, but the other stuff is fine under the store brand - or even Big Lots.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      I cant understand the emphasis on "no wheels". Why are your schools requiring little kids to carry all of that weight? Where I live children that age have to provide backpacks with wheels, since 5 and 6 year olds do not need to strain their backs every day.

      Interesting article. It seems like the school districts are teaching the kids to only accept brand names! As they grow they only want brand name clothing, brand name foods, etc...

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      I am also wondering that!

      Some people even wonder if some of the school staff takes stuff home...

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      I don't remember my parents buying all those supplies when I was in grade school. I'm sure the school provided a lot of them, especially the art supplies. It makes a lot more sense to me! I wonder where all the tax money goes that Americans pay?

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      $150 in Peru! That sounds outrageous, doesn't it? I just found that in Mid-Michigan, some Kindergarten supply lists are voluntary, if parents want to help. Otherwise, the school districts purchase these supplies. Quite a difference!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      I agree that this list of school supplies is excessive! My sister is a divorced mom of 3 and has been so stressed this week with all the purchases necessary to get the kids ready for school. In Peru, the school year starts in April. Kindergartners always have the largest list of supplies, between $100-$150 worth. And that's in a poor country! I don't know how parents do it. I'm surprised by the teachers' salaries. They earn more than I thought. I hope someday school districts can be more reasonable with their demands on parents.