Teacher Dumpster-dives for supplies

In some schools, parents buy their children’s school supplies. In other schools, children show up with empty backpacks. Katie Nave, who teaches fifth grade in Indianapolis, goes Dumpster-diving for school supplies at schools in suburban Carmel, reports the Indianapolis Star. With the help of teachers and custodians, Nave has salvaged “gallon bags of pencils, tubs of crayons, stacks of spiral notebooks and baskets of erasers,” supplementing donations by going through the trash.

“I guess I’m grateful that they don’t want it,” Nave said. “This is my first year when I’ve been able to give every single one of my kids every supply they would need during the school year.”

. . . Some items were still in their original plastic shrink-wrap. Others looked barely touched — former students’ names written on the front of empty notebooks. Even the used supplies were hardly worn: already sharpened pencils or slightly blackened erasers.

Carmel school officials say they don’t know why supplies are being thrown away.  Indianapolis Superintendent Eugene White says IPS, which receives more money per student than neighboring districts, gives schools money for supplies that teachers may not know about. So what does that mean? Are principals buying themselves lavish pencil holders and refusing to pass on money to the teachers?

I once helped a school in a low-income neighborhood organize the supply closet, which was filled with miscellaneous donations and many giant tubs of paste.

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  1. Homeschooling Granny says:

    Accountability has become a buzz word in conversations about education. We need accountability as to where the average $10,000 per pupil is going. Why isn’t that enough to see that teachers have supplies?

  2. A lot of times it is the kids who are throwing out the perfectly good stuff. Our custodians put out barrels near the lockers at the end of the year, and some of us go through them at the end of the day for salvage. That way we’re not pawing through the regular trash.

    I ended up not getting any supplies at all this year. As a veteran teacher, I am lucky enough to have a closet full of stuff I’ve put away in better years.

    School budgets are public information, Granny. Go do some research. Start at the state DESE site.

  3. Yet another demonstration of the lack of understanding of how to manage OPM wisely, efficiently with honor and integrity…geez…no education does not need another dime…maybe they should just stop title I

  4. Off Topic – STEM Education Report to the President:

  5. At our local elementary, most of the kids don’t take home their supplies at the end of the year and leave them for the teacher to throw away. One teacher told me how she has a full classroom supply of sissors and rulers because nobody kept them. One friend handed my daughter all her school supplies to take home the one year. This is also an school where we get extra money because more than 40% of our students are considered poor.

  6. I have about 8 binders of lessons and other teaching materials… 7 of which were gathered from trash bins at the end of previous school years. They are all in great shape.
    Hit the mother lode last year when a teacher retired… got like 100 hanging file folders…

  7. In our school district, they request that children bring a whole list of items from home, including toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, and full size bottles of hand sanitizer. A lady I know has three kids – two elementary and one middle, and she spent seven hundred bucks just on supplies for three kids (that does include a fancy calculator for her middle school child, but does not include clothing).

  8. Homeschooling Granny says:

    Lightly Seasoned, what does DESE stand for. I went to the state Department of Education website but didn’t find what I was looking for or, if it is there, not in a form I could understand.

  9. Roger Sweeny says:

    Homeschooling Granny,

    DESE probably stands for Department of Elementary and Secondary Education–to distinguish it from the state college system.

  10. You have to look at the information for individual districts. I couldn’t tell you how your state is set up.

  11. Homeschooling Granny says:

    Roger Sweeny and Lighly Seasoned,
    Thanks. I will look though I fear I haven’t the background knowledge to make much sense of it.

    What I do know is that for all my adult life, whenever school budgets have come up short the things that are cut are things parents care about such as sports, buses, art, music and extracurricular activities. Color me cynical but I suspect these are threatened because parents will go an extra mile to get them back. I suspect that cutting bureaucracy and finding our budgetary efficiencies could be done but isn’t. I suspect that parents and other volunteers are asked to buy classroom supplies in order to protect other expenditures that have less (or nothing) to do with the classroom.

  12. Most of what makes up a school budget isn’t descretionary. In my district, 85% of our budget is salaries (and our pay scales are below average for our immediate area). We have a handfull of elementaries, a middle school, and one high school, and our medical insurance is over $1 million per month. We pay premiums, have a $3000 deductible, and our dependents are not covered (in case you think we have some sort of cadillac deal — my plan is very much inferior to my husband’s corporate plan).

    Government regulations dictate other parts of the budget. If you are Title I, you need to have staff administer that. You need IT folks to keep the computers running (in theory). You need to fix the roof, paint over the grafitti — that sort of thing. Very little of a budget is available for cutting. As a parent, personally, I don’t mind paying for sports and music (which I do). As we move toward a business model of education, the whole child is not the bottom line — testing scores are, and the band is not a tested department. I get that, so I provide the rest myself.

    Try googling “school budget” and your city. Here’s the budget guidelines for the DC schools: http://dc.gov/DCPS/Files/downloads/ABOUT%20DCPS/Budget%20-%20Finance/DCPS-SchoolBudgetGuide-SY2010-2011.pdf

  13. I’m somewhat skeptical that the kids with ’empty backpacks’ in Indiana can’t afford school supplies.

    Around here, Walmart has a special back to school sale that starts in august and is just finishing up.

    Crayons are 25 cents a pack. Spiral notebooks? 15 cents each. a quarter each for the black and white journals. glue sticks are a quarter for two, and elmers is a quarter a bottle. Pencils and pens are also cheap.

    If a parent skipped a pack of cigarrettes or a sixpack of cheap beer, she could easily outfit her kid for school.

    It’s a problem of priorities. They’re not buying the supplies because THEY DON’T CARE.

  14. And I’ll bet every one of those homes has cell phones, cable TV, cigarettes, soda and/or beer. I’ve stopped believing that there are parents who can’t go to the 99cent store and buy supplies. They just think the school will provide.


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