It’s that time of year again: Back-to-school deal hunting season.

Hoping to give their kids every possible advantage, millions of Michigan parents will flock to nearby retailers for new school supplies. But before loading up on notebooks, pencils and crayons, parents should remember that their local public school is required by law to supply these necessities to every student free of charge.

The details are laid out in a 2011 Michigan Department of Education memo listing specifically what supplies schools must provide, including pencils, paper, crayons, scissors and glue sticks. In addition, school districts may not charge for registration or any course fees, even for elective courses.

Yet many parents remain unaware that the tax dollars tendered by themselves and their neighbors have already paid for these school supplies. Some school districts improperly suggest that parents are responsible for these supplies. According to the 2012 Huntington Backpack Index, parents will spend between $548 and $1,117 on school supplies and fees for each student on average.

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The rationale for requiring school districts to provide these basic supplies is language in the state Constitution requiring the Legislature to “maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law.” The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that basic school supplies fall under this definition.

So before parents hit the stores, they should beware of paying a second time for supplies they have already funded.

 


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Detroit Prep is a top-rated and economically and racially diverse charter school in the city. It's growth means it needs to move out from a church basement and into a new location. Nearby is a former Detroit Public Schools building, sitting empty for years. But, worried about competition, the public school district refused to sell. For years, district and local government officials in Detroit had worked to block public charter schools. They pushed legislation at the Michigan Capitol to hinder them, refused to sell to them, transferred surplus buildings from the district to the city government and imposed deed restrictions on property sales to private developers. All of it was aimed to hinder or even prevent charter school choice outside the confines of the Detroit school district.

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