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Should teachers be asking for brand name school supplies?

September 5, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
Here's a question for you during back to school season: Should schools really be specifying a particular brand of crayon or glue or moist wipe to be used in the classroom?

This is going on in school districts all over the country, based on online chatter. I suspect a lot of teachers request the brand names because they pool all of the supplies that kids bring in and use them for the entire class. It may be easier if there is just one brand of crayon or box of tissues in the communal pile. Schools probably can't actually require that parents buy a particular brand, but there's definitely heavy pressure brought to bear on those school supply lists that are handed out by schools, posted on the web site and posted in local department stores.

I don't think it's a good policy. On these school supply lists, teachers often claim that a particular brand is better or worth the extra pennies, but they aren't the ones paying the difference between the generic brand and the more expensive brand of crayons. The number of homeless families in this state is on the rise. For many of those families living paycheck to paycheck, that extra $1 or $5 paid for brand name crayons could instead pay for a meal for their child or some other necessity.

You don't realize the value of a dollar until pay day is days away, your bank account is in single digits and you have had to dig through the sofa cushions in search of a few quarters so you can buy a can of soup for that night's dinner. I can only guess how many families are in that sort of predicament right now in the state, but there are probably quite a few families who are couch surfing or living in campers or four-wheelers. I know that there are a lot of organizations that help out needy families by providing school supplies this time of year, but those organizations can stretch those donated dollars a lot farther by buying the cheaper products for kids and for teachers' classrooms.

My mother, who was annoyed by the brand name requirement when she bought some of the school supplies for my second-grade nephew this fall, made a good point. She said it also seemed like some of these schools are advertising to the children and their families by preferring a specific brand. Advertising doesn't belong in schools, especially at the elementary level.

What do you think of teachers requesting specific brand names for back to school supplies?


Article Comments



Sep-06-13 12:57 PM

Wow Strawberry- that's a lot of money for school supplies!! We also had to buy some dry erase markers, tissues, and cleaning wipes for the classroom - but they didn't request brand name, thankfully. I'm sure it will get more expensive as the years go on.


Sep-06-13 10:10 AM

I agree with crzcat's post that Crayola is better, hands down.

Strawberry, I'm feeling for your past experiences in MN. Wow...


Sep-06-13 8:16 AM

Andrea, I love your blog!

I think for the most part, teachers being brand specific do it for the fact they want the kids to have the same item, so the ones with the cheaper brand don't get picked on. As for supplies that get pooled, like tissues and wipes, I think it's ridiculous!

We used to live in the suburbs of Minneapolis, a very affluent suburb, the supply list would be 3 pages long! 3 pages fir each grade (elementary.)I was supplying post-it notes, dry erase board markers and other things that my kids didn't need, I could only assume they were for the teacher's use, which BTW were making $60k+/year! I was a single mom of 3, barely making ends meet and it was costing me about $500, just for the start if school! I bought the brand specific items because I didn't want my kids to feel left out or be picked on. thank goodness I drove to 7 different stores one year to get Prang brand watercolors, when they were brought home at the end of year, they were hardly used!


Sep-05-13 5:38 PM

I don't think it is unreasonable if they are only asking for one or two brand name items - like crayons. As a mother of a now second-grader and toddler, I can testify to the fact that there is a huge difference in quality with crayons. Crayola is just better - honestly. Others are way too waxy, and don't "spread" well. If every item is asked to be brand-name, that's asking too much. With the exception of crayons, I bought mostly up & up brand items and still exceeded $50 for only 3/4 of her list. This year's supply list (for her school) didn't specify brand on anything except watercolor paints and crayons. I'm guessing they have a reason for requesting those two specific items be brand-name.


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