Are students required to buy their own materials?

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Are students required to buy their own materials?

Isabella Terzoli, Senior Staff Writer

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The California education code 38118 states “Writing and drawing paper, pens, inks, blackboards, blackboard erasers, crayons, lead pencils, and other necessary supplies for the use of the schools, shall be furnished under direction of the governing boards of the school districts.” Yet, us students continue to buy our supplies.

Though teachers can argue they never actually say you are required to buy the materials that are listed on the syllabus, it is, to most students and parents understanding, that we are required to buy the listed supplies.

On the first day of school we already need a pencil, paper, and possibly even a notebook (whether it’s spiral or not) to write whatever the teacher tells us to, or what we feel may be important.

Teachers tell us what supplies we need to get by certain time and some teachers (if the student gets a nice one) say you may purchase supplies from them, for a very little donated amount. That would still be buying supplies for a grade. Some kids can’t always afford the materials, even the low prices provided by the teachers.

This photo comes from 8th grade STEAM history class

The California education code 38116 states “If in any county a school supply revolving fund is not established, payment for school supplies and equipment purchased through the county superintendent of schools or through the county purchasing agent shall be made by order of the governing board of the school district purchasing them, in the same manner as other payments are made from school district funds.” This code means, any supplies needed by the student or school should be ordered by the governing board. 

Teachers ask for tissue, paper towels, wipes, hand sanitizer, and other supplies from parents (or guardians). I understand teachers can’t buy everything and that, considering us students use the materials, the least we could do is help out and donate, but why isn’t the governing board buying the materials like it’s supposed to?

Although it’s hard to find the actual answer to this question says “The formal institutional roles assigned to school boards, and the designated position board members play as representatives of the community, would lead one to believe that the school board has a decisive role in public education policy and school system administration. In the minds of many lay citizens, school boards have considerable influence over educational decisions and provide a key social and political connection to the schooling process. …” This quote is explaining the school board doesn’t have a role in public education, and that the school boards only have an influence over educational decisions and schooling process not materials for school.

When asked “Do you feel school supplies should be brought by us, considering it’s for our grade”, STEAM eighth grader James Elmore says “No I don’t think [students should buy own materials] so  people may not have the money” while STEAM eighth grader Mariah Jimenez says “Well it depends, technically we are given what is absolutely necessary to participate in class but some kids will go out of their way to buy better or newer versions of the supplies. Like if we told our teacher we needed a pencil, we would get it. I personally prefer to buy my own stuff, but we are given opportunity to ask for things we can’t afford, or just don’t have.”

Our principle, Mr. Gebhart, also has some thoughts on this topic he has said: “I believe that, if students do not have access or the resources to get them on their own, all students should be provided with all materials necessary to complete an assignment[…]a student’s ability to get supplies should not impact his/her grade…I do believe there should be a process and procedure for students to get any supplies needed to be successful in school.”

“Existing law prohibits a pupil enrolled in school from being required to pay a fee, deposit, or other charge not specifically authorized by law,” states It’s saying that pupils (students) do not have to pay for their materials because it is not specifically authorized by law. This goes back to having to pay for PE clothes, having to wear the Dana middle school PE clothes is for a grade, but the students have to pay money for them, it’s like saying “You can’t afford this so your going to end up with a bad grade in the class and no way to fix it.” It’s not okay.   

When doing PBLs students are required to bring in materials to make the project, teachers say you can bring in recycled materials and don’t have to purchase anything. But without purchasing certain materials some projects are almost impossible to complete or do. Teachers also require the project to look amazing and work perfectly, it’s hard to get things to look perfect or work perfectly without the purchase of expensive materials.

Getty Images/iStockphoto
Pile of empty toilet paper roll that could be useful when creating PBLs

The law is students do not have to buy their own supplies, and that supplies are supposed to be bought by the governing board (a committee of university officers who have general supervision over the welfare and conduct of students).

Dana has a stockroom of donated items from teachers, and parents to provide school items to those that have financial needs. If the students don’t know who to ask to get access to these supplies, how are they supposed to know or get the material? Many students that struggle with financial hardship wont ask or say they are in need of help because this is their personal information they don’t want anyone to know, about them.

Do you think students should be required to buy their own supplies or do you feel the governing board (or school board) should provide them for us?