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Buying school supplies in Hillsborough Co. optional

11:06 PM, Aug 19, 2013   |    comments
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BRANDON, Florida -- Back-to-school season is underway, but in some states like Connecticut there's no such thing as a mad dash to snatch up school supplies. There's no need for it.

Parents buy clothes and book bags, but they're able to bypass pencils, pens, and paper, and their kids still have all the tools they need to learn.

Amanda Gilroy was busy shopping at the Kmart located at 1602 West Brandon Blvd. in Brandon Monday evening. She said, "Well, this is our second store that we came to."

Gilroy was trying her best to get her son, Corey, who is headed to the 10th grade, everything he needs for school. She said, "I was very surprised at these binders. They're about seven dollars each."

She said she had no idea buying all the items on her son's school supply list was optional -- at least in Hillsborough County. "I didn't know that, but whatever I can do to help him be more organized. He's in the 10th grade, so it's important that he has everything that he needs. It has to be done so."

Steve Hegarty, a spokesperson for the school district, said schools and individual teachers make up the school supply lists and the district doesn't require parents to contribute.

It was a revelation that was right on time for Antwanette Oliver, who was shopping with her daughter, who's heading to the 4th grade on Tuesday. Oliver said she's shopping around to get the best price and had no idea she didn't have to buy everything on the list.

"Oh, wow, that's awesome to know that. I guess I'll get the first few things and see what they can help us with because I can't afford it myself. But, you know, I wanted her to have the things that she needed for school."

Melissa Erickson is the director of the Hillsborough Alliance for Public Schools and said schools in Florida are chronically underfunded, which is why parents are encouraged to buy school supplies.

She said, "Last school year, we were over $4,000 below the national average in funding students, so our students get less money in the classroom, which translates into not only parents buying pencils, paper, crayons, and glue sticks, but paper towels and hand sanitizer and copy paper for the teacher, and supplies that a fully funded education would have."

Erickson said the alliance, which is a non-profit, is looking for ways to partner with other non-profits  to encourage the community to donate supplies to area schools to close the gap. She said, "Call your legislator right now while they're starting to think about what they're going to do in the upcoming legislative session and tell them, 'I don't like the fact that I pay out of pocket every year and I'd like you to consider funding public education.'"

Erickson, who has a son in public school in Hillsborough County, said one year when they lived in Connecticut all she purchased for her son to go back to school was a back pack and a lunch box.

"When he showed up at school, he had a little caddy on his desk that had his name on it and it had crayons, and glue sticks, and markers, and scissors in that, and not only was that there on the first day of school but it was resupplied when we came back from winter break."

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