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Hidden Benefits

  • Posted on August 26, 2013 at 10:00 AM

When you’re living in a city that’s been devastated by the economic downturn—a city that’s still struggling five years later from the close of a major chunk of our economic activity—you see a lot of poverty. Of course, in a smaller city like Janesville, the poverty isn’t quite as blatant as the beggars on the streets of Chicago. But that poverty becomes quite visible when families are gathered together for school registration.

I don’t know if it’s new, but I do know you have to ask for it. You see, the benefits of certain things—like free and reduced lunches and breakfasts—are well advertised, because these programs are supported by outside funds. Lesser known benefits—like waiving registration fees—are not readily known or advertised.

When you have children entering the public school system, the education they receive is not free. Of course, all of these schools are paid for with taxes—your taxes. But there’s no time when the not-so-free public schooling becomes more readily apparent than at the beginning of the school year. Parents pay for registration fees. They may also pay sports or club fees. And they pay for school supplies. Of course, they don’t just pay for the supplies their children need, but they also pay for classroom supplies—like facial tissues, cleaning wipes, the dreaded red pens that will mark up children’s assignments, and even markers to write on the white boards. And that’s not including new clothes and new shoes, which was the exciting part of going back to school when I was a kid.

When you have multiple children, these costs add up very quickly. When you live in a city entrenched in poverty, many of the people simply can’t afford even the most basic of supplies. You have to be in the know to get the help you need.

If you’re in that situation, ask for help. The people at your school will know if fees can be waived. They’ll know where people in need can get free school supplies—Salvation Army and other charitable organizations run drives to provide these items. They’ll know what other help you might be eligible for. Don’t let your pride get in the way. Ask for help! You just might get what you need to get your child into school and supplied to learn.