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Who can calculate the cost of an education?

So my 15-year-old daughter asks, about an hour before her Sunday afternoon music lesson, "When are we going to buy that black blouse and pants for jazz band?"

And while we're at it, "Can I drive?"

I hand her the keys. But we're not a mile from the house when I order her to pull over because there is just too much traffic on the streets of Carrollwood and if she wanted a lesson, she should have been up at 6 a.m.

Grumble, grumble.

We're hitting the stores anyway because she needs another graphing calculator — the first one was stolen — and my son needs a new composition notebook with graph paper.

I'm not upset about the jazz clothes. That's what happens when your kids do stuff after school.

But she informs me, from the passenger seat, that if she wants a good grade in driver's education, she'll have to log in something like 10 hours of road experience, some of them at night.


I'm supposed to pay $40 for the course. So basically, I'm giving them money so they can tell me to take my kid out in traffic because all they do is drive around the school parking lot.

Yeah, whatever.

My husband complains mightily about this stuff. He's trying to watch his spending, and he can't believe the schools make kids buy $100 calculators. Yes, graphing calculators go for about that much.

What about the families who don't have money? he asks. If the school district has $100 million to match a teacher training grant, why can't it provide graphing calculators given that this is basically ground zero in the nation's foreclosure crisis?

Me? I don't worry about money because I have credit cards! Lots and lots and lots of credit cards, enough so I can go to Staples any time I want and ask a kid named Justin, who looks like one of the little boys I coach at under-6 soccer, to retrieve one of those $100 calculators from the back and then ring it up after asking me if I have my rewards card. I throw in the only graphing composition book I can find for my son, which unfortunately is pink (sorry) and costs $3. Then I go next door to Target, where my daughter is trying on black clothing.

I neglect to check the prices on 3-inch binders, which my son needs for his middle school study skills program, and which need to be replaced about every other month because they break. He knows more about the Massachusetts Senate race than I do, but he's not a loose-leaf binder kind of person, so I'm in for $14 every time I turn around.

Upon closer interrogation, my daughter tells me the calculator might not have actually been stolen. She loaned it to a friend, she says, and then it disappeared, and she's too polite to demand that he repay her. Oh, and she could have rented one for $20 from the teacher. Not sure why that didn't happen.

So I make her promise me that if she loses somebody's $100 calculator, she'll at least offer to replace it. But thinking back, I'm not sure if we ever replaced the iPod she borrowed from a different friend back in middle school.

At least we're saving on gas today because most schools in Hillsborough are closed for Student Day at the Florida State Fair. I've always boycotted that event, both on principle and because of that thing I have called a job. But this year my daughter's jazz band is performing at the fair.

So there's a chance that next week you'll be reading more about the cost of sending children to public schools.

Reach Marlene Sokol at (813) 909-4602 or

Who can calculate the cost of an education? 02/04/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:59pm]
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