Comparing prices in the school supply aisle is a rite of summer for Melissa Jarrell. This year though, if she lived in Cabell County, she wouldn't necessarily have to do that.
"It could save you a lot of money, depending on what grade they're in,” Jarrell said, “I have one in junior high. That could save you a couple hundreds dollars probably."
Apparently, unbeknownst to basically everyone, the West Virginia constitutions idea for a free public education includes school supplies. That flies in the face of the big shopping list parents had to fill year after year.
"You know, you've got a list at the beginning of the school year. You ask for pencils, crayons, markers, tissues, all those things. That's the way it's always been done,” Cabell County Schools’ Jedd Flowers said, “But what we learned in our last education performance audits visit is that violates constitutional law in West Virginia. And so, because it's supposed to be a free and appropriate education, we are supposed to supply those basic needs."
When the memo to teachers first came out at the end of this past school year, the questions were flying.
Courtney Proctor Cross has been teaching for 20 years. She says the supply list for parents was just part of the picture.
"Many of the friends I teach with, and myself included, we all spend hundreds of dollars of our own money every year providing things that we want for the children,” Cross said, ”The allocation from the county hasn't been increased for many years."
But just as school supplies are mandated to be free for students, the state mandate also holds true for teachers. Mr. Flowers said, financially, Cabell County schools are in good shape and will have no problem meeting the state guidelines, but there are other counties in West Virginia who may not be so lucky when the audit hits their classrooms.
"They told us in our review, we've seen this in every other county we've gone to this year. And so other counties are learning along with us at the same time," Flowers said.
The last thing kids want to think about right now is school, but not long after one school year ends, many parents start shopping for school supplies for next year.
The cost of all those notebooks, backpacks and binders can really add up. That's why a recent announcement by Cabell County schools caught the attention of parents and teachers.
If Johnny wants that special "transformers" folder or binder, he's only going to have to get it from mom and dad, but flowers with Cabell County Schools said the new plan will make a huge difference for families who really can't afford to buy all the supplies.