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No checks requested, no school supplies requested

Original post made by Paly Parent, Palo Alto High School, on Aug 26, 2013

Has anyone else noticed that we have not had the usual glut of checks to write for school or the mad dash to get certain types of supplies requested by various teachers?

Does this mean teachers are now told not to request students have certain supplies and the schools are supplying them? I am so used to writing checks for everything from PE uniforms to language work books and scientific spiral notebooks, that I feel a little guilty.

Without donating to PIE or PTA, is there any way fund that we can help cover these particular costs for the school? I would like to see some type of supplies fund that parents can contribute to which cover these things which we used to pay for but are no longer allowed but still turn up in school.

Comments (37)

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Posted by Prop 13
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 26, 2013 at 8:13 pm

I don't feel guilty. Read your tax bill, it might help. Finally a free public education.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 26, 2013 at 8:19 pm

If it is coming out of the school general fund, that is one thing. But, if teachers are funding supplies out of their own pockets when in the past we paid for it, I am not so happy.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 26, 2013 at 8:32 pm

We still have to pay for P.E. uniforms. I wrote a check for $30 for my freshman.


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Posted by Prop 13
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 26, 2013 at 8:43 pm

That's outrageous that you were charged for a PE uniform. Send an email to Dr. Skelly asking for a refund. Make sure you say that it is a complaint under the UCP. What will it take before PAUSD believes that the law applies here.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2013 at 7:39 am

@Prop13,

As long as there's an alternative to paying for the PE uniform (and there is), the fee covers the cost. Students are allowed to wear their own clothes to gym as long as the clothes are the right color and type.

Personally, I don't mind paying for the supplies my children use because I know our tax dollars do not cover the full cost of public education. To think otherwise is naive.


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 27, 2013 at 8:55 am

Prop 13 - The "free" education students receive is often paid for by teachers. See the recent Mercury News article about how teacher are prepared to spend even more than usual this year:

Web Link

When my kids were in elementary school, the PTA gave each teacher several hundred dollars at the beginning of the year to pay for supplies so it didn't come out of their pockets.

Anonymous - check with your PTA president about donating either $$ or actual supplies, that is very nice of you!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 27, 2013 at 10:05 am

Anonymous is wrong. PE uniforms are specifically mentioned as an item that students cannot be charged for. If students are required to wear clothing that is "the right color and type", the school has to provide it.
The district is still trying to evade the law on this, despite the summer school fee debacle. Anybody know if the math department is still requiring that students provide their own calculators?


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Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 27, 2013 at 10:27 am

Fretting about $30 for a P.E. uniform when we live in million-dollar houses? Oh, it's the principle of it, right. . .

Back in the 80's, we could wear what we wanted, but this way is actually easier. If I had to go choose P.E. clothing with my daughter, it would take hours. Eliminating the fashion by using uniforms helps the sanity of our girls and moms.


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Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 27, 2013 at 10:49 am

A recent statute even ensured that schools must pay for pencils as part of a free education. At Paly, teachers request materials but I have been ignoring their requests as long as they promise they don't have not book or binder checks -- a total of 4 classes in my time at Paly have them. This year, I am using one binder and one notebook for my needs even though it was "recommended" to buy more. Each department at Paly will assist you if you cannot supply yourself...the math department, for example, subsidizes TI 89s and 84s and the science department provides notebooks if you cannot. Regarding the PE uniforms, a shirt-shorts combo was $15 in my time. That's really not that bad in the grand scheme of things, and if you ask the PE dept they'll help you out.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2013 at 11:29 am

The PE uniform at Gunn is something like white top and dark shorts. Is this really that difficult?

Since you wonderful parents refuse to buy a calculator (used around $30) for your children and ignore all the teacher requests, I'm sure your wonderful students are doing the same. It's all attitude.


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Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 27, 2013 at 11:38 am

Completely agree with "Anonymous"! What are these argumentative, dogmatic parents teaching their kids? All the anger makes children uncomfortable. Just mention it and move on.

The Paly uniform is more of a uniform. The heather grey colored tee states the name of school and has a box for writing in the name. The green, nylon shorts also state "PALY" and have a box to write the student's name.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 27, 2013 at 1:04 pm

With all these different aspects of the law and the different impressions and interpretations we as parents seem to have about the issue, I think it is right that PAUSD makes some type of announcement as to what the law is, how PAUSD is implementing it and how we can contribute towards supplies now being provided by the district.

I remember a while ago at PE uniform distribution time that someone asked if there were second hand PE uniforms for sale. The reply was a bit of a laugh and "who would want a smelly second hand uniform" type of response. I also tried, unsuccessfully, to pass on old uniforms to younger students but was told that each student had to have their name on the uniform so that teachers could tell the name of the student so old ones would not work. Once again, some overall policy should be somewhere about what is the correct information.


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Posted by well there's that then
a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Public education is free. *GOOD* public education is not. Just sayin'...


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 27, 2013 at 1:38 pm

If the school requires students to wear PE uniforms that have the school logo on them, they can not charge for them. If they allow the students to wear their own clothes, they can charge for "optional" PE uniforms. Failure to wear PAUSD PE uniforms (if they are not issued for free) can not affect the student's grade.

PAUSD Ed Code "If a P.E. uniform with school logo is required for all P.E. students, it must be provided as a necessary school supply. If students are required to have "standardized physical education apparel" of a particular color, but can purchase the apparel from another source, then a school uniform can be offered for purchase to students as an option. However, a student's grade cannot be adversely affected based on failure to wear standardized apparel when the failure "arises from circumstances beyond the control of the student." Students cannot be required to purchase locks, but can be required to pay for loss or damage beyond normal wear and tear. (E.C. 38118, 48904, 49066(c))"


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2013 at 1:45 pm

If a family can afford to pay for their own child's school supplies, why on earth would they not help in this manner? I probably spend a grand total of $200 during the year for my three kids and would certainly rather pay that than see it come out of some school budget. This is one little way my kids are prepared and organized, and one little way that I can help the teachers. It's simply not worthy of an argument when options are given to any student who requests financial assistance.


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Posted by Former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 27, 2013 at 2:17 pm

We can all debate what makes sense to us, but the real question is, What is the law? The law says that (a) if equipment is required of students, it must be provided by the school and (b) providing financial aid on request is not an acceptable alternative to providing it by the school. So "helping out" with calculator purchases when students ask, for example, is not legal.
The PAUSD PE rule isn't legal either. Either students are supposed to wear gym clothes or they are not. If they are supposed to, the school has to provide it.
Given the way the district handled the summer school fee situation, I expect that they will continue to charge fees that they know are illegal until they are called on it. Basically, the city had to step in to force refunds of those fees.


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 27, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Former Paly Parent - the law requires schools to have equipment available for students but does not prevent students from providing their own supplies nor does it prevent the school from asking for donations for supplies, field trips, etc. The PAUSD PE policy is perfectly legal, PAUSD can sell PE clothes as long as the students are not required to buy them or to wear them. Wearing their own clothes can not affect their grade.


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Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 27, 2013 at 11:58 pm

I went to school in NY state in the early 80s and my family was never asked to contribute to a school fund like PIE or to pay for anything at all, not a PE uniform, locks, or workbooks. My first encounter with a public school asking for money was when my first child started a kindergarten, for several weeks there were requests from the principal, superintendent, fundraiser parents and even teachers asking to contribute to a general fund and to participate in an auction fundraiser. I don't mind giving to the schools towards the discretionary supply fund, so teachers can chose appropriate supplies for their classrooms, it benefits my child in the end, and keeps our property values high. No teacher has ever said that these contribution are mandatory and not all the families gave, so I tried to double or triple my contribution so that no teacher is ever out of pocket.


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Posted by Former PAUSD Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 28, 2013 at 7:11 am

What always chapped my hide were the letters we received every August and every January strongly "urging" a "contribution" of $2500 per child per semester in PAUSD! That really IS too much to ask for.

I would send a check for $500 each ( plenty of dough for them to work with and does not interfere with my ability to make a mortgage payment), but never got so much as a "thank you", probably because it was a fraction of what they asked for. And this after already paying for school supplies!

We didn't get this sort of BS in San Jose schools! Go figure.


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Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 28, 2013 at 9:50 am

The PAUSD Board is drafting their Focus Goals for the year. It sounds like a policy clarification is needed as to the implementation of the law. Each school's handbook should provide clear guidance so questions about PE uniforms and calculators are not left up to each teacher to decide as they are working to start the school year.

Many parents, myself included, are able and willing to contribute. PIE should provide guidance as to how best to route any donations of money or supplies.


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 28, 2013 at 10:03 am

Former PAUSD parent - I don't believe anyone in PAUSD has asked for a $2500 per student contribution.

Gunn Parent - PiE raises funds for staff, not supplies. The PTA and the school are the appropriate places to ask for guidance on donations.


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Posted by PA DAD
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2013 at 10:21 am

It seems like Palo Alto Parents' money doesn't go very far. Money, whether it be from TAXES or PROPOSITIONS or DONATIONS or FUNDRAISERS, are constantly being diluted and diverted away from where we would most like it to go, i.e. to improve our kid's school or classroom.





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Posted by Garden Gnome
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 28, 2013 at 10:24 am

If the public education is "free", then why does so much of my property tax go to cover it? In addition, there's that bond line item there...

Or maybe those are just to help fund all that administration overhead!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 28, 2013 at 10:38 am

palo alto parent, you said: "Former Paly Parent - the law requires schools to have equipment available for students but does not prevent students from providing their own supplies nor does it prevent the school from asking for donations for supplies, field trips, etc. The PAUSD PE policy is perfectly legal, PAUSD can sell PE clothes as long as the students are not required to buy them or to wear them."

That is exactly my point. The law requires that schools have equipment available for students that they need for their educational program. If that includes PE uniforms, the school has to provide them. They can ask for donations from parents to cover the cost of providing uniforms to all students if they want, just not as a disguised fee for a particular student.

So the PAUSD PE policy is not legal.


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 28, 2013 at 11:17 am

Former Paly Parent - I can't find the link now, but I researched this last spring. PE uniforms were specifically described in the explanations of this law, if a school requires a student to wear a particular uniform, they have to provide it. If the student is allowed to wear their own appropriate clothing, the school does NOT have to provide it.

Per CA Ed Code "EC Section 49066 states that a student's grade cannot be adversely affected if the failure to wear appropriate apparel arises from circumstances beyond the control of the student.A school can not mark a students grade down if they do not dress" and "The LEA needs to establish a physical education dress policy for their district. It is appropriate for students to change their clothes for hygiene, safety, and movement efficiency purposes."


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Posted by Sue
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 28, 2013 at 2:45 pm

I'm the mother of a PAUSD teacher & I have bought a lot of books & supplies, even bookcases & white boards for the classrooms, so "my teacher" didn't have to pay for it all. My contribution is usually between $150-300 per year. Do you know that teachers have had to supply their own computers? If there's a printer in you kid's classroom, it probably belongs to the teacher.

In olden days when I was a student here, we all brought our own binders, paper, pencils, pens, spiral notebooks, protractors, compasses, graph paper and slide rules. The only thing the school provided were small notebooks with the multiplication table printed on the back cover & an occasional #2 pencil for machine scored tests. We were required to cover our hardback texts (preservation for future years). We also paid for our own PE uniforms.

If people can afford to live PAUSD, they can certainly eke out money for their kids' school supplies.


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 28, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Sue -

You are right that most people who live in Palo Alto can afford to buy school supplies for their students (and I remember covering my textbooks too!), but the State law says that students can not be required to supply any of their school supplies, if they don't have them, the District (which I suspect will usually mean the teachers in most places) needs to supply them.


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Posted by Kindel Launer
a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2013 at 9:13 pm

During the first couple of weeks of school, I observe my students carefully - if I notice that students may need materials to help them succeed in class, I discretely make those supplies available. I always welcome support - financial and otherwise from my generous parents in PAUSD - PALY English Teacher


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2013 at 10:21 pm

I'm sure there's a reason some politician pushed through this "no fee" state law, but it's application here in Palo Alto is pretty silly. Former parents are complaining over a cost which is less than six drinks from Starbucks.

If you really want free public education, repeal Prop 13 and overturn the court order which removed local funding of school districts.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 28, 2013 at 10:25 pm

@PA DAD - My kids have seen direct benefit from PIE - the classrooms aides have been major assets, occasionally better than the teachers.


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Posted by Former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 29, 2013 at 10:21 am

@Anonymous, there is no "no fee" state law pushed through by "some politician". The right to a free public education is in the California State Constitution.
@palo alto parent: Here is the link you are looking for: Web Link.
It says: "All supplies, materials and equipment needed to participate in educational activities shall be provided to pupils free of charge." "Gym suits for physical education classes" are specifically mentioned as necessary materials that must be provided by the district.
The ed code and PAUSD policy sections you cite mean that (1) the district is supposed to require that students wear gym clothes for PE class (so the district has to pay for it), and (2) that if the student doesn't have their PE clothes for a reason that isn't their fault (like, for example, their dog ate it) they can't have their grade docked. That doesn't mean that the district is off the hook from providing gym clothes for students.
In short, the district is required to provide gym clothes for students. Since they are not doing it, they are not complying with the law.


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Posted by on the other hand
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2013 at 10:55 am

Former Paly parent,

There is no requirement that kids wear PE uniforms. If PAUSD gives students the choice - buy a uniform or wear your own shorts and T - then it doesn't need to provide uniforms free of charge.

From the CA Department of Education: "Dressing and Lockers. Must a district require students to change clothes for physical education instruction? This is an LEA decision." Web Link




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Posted by Palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 29, 2013 at 11:31 am

PE Uniforms - unless the District REQUIRES the students to wear clothes with their logo, they do NOT have to provide them. This does not preclude them selling PE clothes as a convenience to the parents.

"The California Department of Education (CDE) has stated the position that a school district may require students to purchase their own gym clothes of a district-specified design and color so long as the design and color are of a type sold for general wear outside of school. Once the required gym uniforms become specialized in terms of logos, school name or other similar characteristics not found on clothing for general use outside of school, they are considered school supplies and the district must provide them free of charge."


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 29, 2013 at 11:46 am

This is interesting.

So to all those reading this who are 6th grade or freshman parents, did you have to buy school PE clothes or were they provided free of charge?

What other school supplies did any parent have to provide? Notebooks, binders, binder reminders, cooking supplies, art supplies?


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Posted by Former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 29, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Paly parent, the document I linked to is the CDE fiscal directive on this topic, last updated in April 2013. There is no logo exception there. You're simply wrong about the current legal requirements, though PAUSD is apparently not following it. As with the summer school fees, that will probably change if there is a formal complaint about it, but not until then.


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Posted by hmm
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2013 at 4:35 pm

So does this mean my forgetful, but super-athletic MS son, who got a C in PE last quarter because he couldn't consistently remember to bring/wear his PE uniform should actually get the A he deserved based on performance?


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 30, 2013 at 10:41 am

You can't be serious.


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