A paper shortage at a Pennsylvania school district is revealing important questions about the priorities in public schools, and it’s exposing issues in a broken system that have gone unresolved for years.
I am a school counselor at Sto-Rox, a low income school district in the #Pittsburgh area. We have completely ran out of paper for the rest of the year. Any #businesses willing to #donate paper to us?! @HeinzKetchup_US @PPG @dickssportingss @Alcoa
— Katie Couch (@Couch_Kitten) February 14, 2020
The story started with a post to Twitter by Sto-Rox school counselor Katie Couch, who alerted that the district will “completely run out of paper for the rest of the year.”
Superintendent Frank Dalmas told the Pittsburg Post-Tribune the “surprising” paper shortage is the result of a “conservative spending budget.” The district received $19,011 per student in funding for the 2018-19 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Couch’s Twitter post sparked a strong response from the community and local businesses, who donated about 100 cases of paper to get the district through. Couch and Dalmas celebrated the generosity, on social media and comments in the media.
“Oh my God, is it incredible or what?” Dalmas said.
“What’s amazing is that everyone, especially our local community, has stepped up and said, ‘Anything we can do to help,’” he said.
“Knowing that in our social media world today so much of what happens there is a negative form of communication, it is so overwhelming to look at the positive that can happen,” Dalmas told the Tribune.
Others are pointing to a different lesson learned from the debacle.
The Pen Capital-Star’s Kim Lyons opined:
Someone asked me on Twitter why the Sto-Rox paper shortage couldn’t be a two-part story: both appalling that they ran out of money, and, “a good story people stepped up in time of need.”
Because it’s a societal failure that children don’t have enough paper in school to do worksheets and study for tests. Kudos to everyone who stepped up, but his shouldn’t be about making you feed good because you donated a few bucks.
Like the stories of the teacher whose colleagues donated their sick time so he could continue his cancer treatments, or the kid who sold his Xbox so his mom could buy a used car, looking just at the outcome of Sto Rox paper outage (“is it incredible or what?” the superintendent exclaimed) doesn’t push us to question why these economic crises keep happening to vulnerable people and children.
And if we don’t push back and ask these questions (what’s going to change in next year’s Sto-Rox budget, for instance?), there’s nothing to stop another school district from having to go begging on social media to rely on the kindness of strangers.
Lynos’ point is “if the community can raise enough to pay $700,000 for a refurbished football stadium (no local taxes were used, according to the superintendent), why is it not possible to prioritize paper for the district’s fifth-graders before they run out?”