back to school, I wrote that in Quebec, parents have to buy school supplies for their children. At the same time, parents have to shell out money for text books and school trips. This means that in the third week of August, parents are expected to spend about $200 per child, and that does not include any purchases for clothes.
In response to this post, I received this comment from Fidel Fuentes on my Facebook page:
"The whole thing is a bloody disgrace. Way back when I was living in Ontario I was going to a Catholic School. The school bought all student supplies in bulk. This meant that if I wanted a pencil, note books, art supplies, dictionaries, school books etc., all I had to do was go to the back of the class, open a drawer and take out what I needed. The parents of poor kids didn't have to choose between sending the kids to bed hungry in order to buy school supplies. The whole things makes me sick."
I found this comment indeed humbling. How soon we forget. Both my husband and I were raised by our mothers on limited resources. In my case, my mother would have had to come up with the 1970s equivalent of $400 for me and my brother. What would my mother have done? Like many single mothers, she had a fairly good job, but coming up with that kind of money would have involved saving over a sustained period of time.
I decided to look into what a single working mother could do.
My first stop was the vice-principal at my daughter's school. VP Pierre Lemay told me that coming up with the money for some families was indeed difficult. I asked him if the school accepted donations of unused school supplies from previous years. He said that this would depend on what my daughter's class needed and he directed me to my daughter's teacher. Lemay also told me that there were some area organizations that provided school supplies, but suggested that I phone the CLSC (area healthcare and social services centre), where they would be able to give me further information.
On my lunchhour, I contacted the CLSC social worker, who in turn referred me to
Jeunesse au Soleil or the Sun Youth Organization on St-Urbain St. I spoke with an adviser there who was making up school supply packages to be given out on next Tuesday. However, he did point out that supplies were limited, and that they were strictly for people who used the Sun Youth food bank. I asked him how single-parent families managed.
"It's a dire situation for many. People on social assistance are given extra money for the back-to-school period, but it's not enough," he said. "And there are still a lot of parents not on social assistance who can't afford school supplies."
One of the other organizations that the Sun Youth adviser referred me to was the Welcome Hall Mission (Mission bon acceuil) in St-Henri. On August 16 and 17 of this year, the organization handed out 2,200 packages of school supplies, footwear and clothing, worth $170,000. In addition, 40 refurbished computers were given away. This is the ninth year running for the WHM's Head Held High event, which is slated as Montreal's largest school supply distribution.
Fondation Maman Dion (Celine's mom). This year, the Foundation also gave out 2,200 packages to students in 72 school boards across Quebec. The package includes $200 worth of school supplies from BuroPLUS and a $200 coupon for clothing at L'aubanerie. To be eligible, parents must apply before the April deadline. Applications are reviewed by a selection committee made up of retired teachers.
It's great to see that these organization's exist, but there's one thing that I'm sure would put off a lot of working single parents and low-income families. These are charity organizations that receive funding through corporate and private donations. I believe that many families are still too proud to take handouts, and as my Facebook friend suggested in his comment, some families might cut corners on necessities so that they can buy school supplies. It is indeed a sad state of affairs if an adult earning a living wage cannot afford school supplies for his/her children.
Schools supplies are an essential part of a child's education. So why don't our taxes pay for them?
Furthermore, why are families paying retail prices for school supplies in Quebec when the provincial government can purchase the whole thing in bulk, through a competitive* tender process, at a fraction of the cost?
I'd love to know what you think reader...Should the government pay for school supplies or should parents foot the bill?
*by competitive I mean the best price/quality ratio. This does not mean your friend who owns a chain of office supply stores.
Belle Province Back-to-School
Return of the Angels
Urban Solutions for Greener Surroundings
For the Vegan in You
Multitasker Foils Gentrification
The Lure of Fishing on Bernard