It’s only April, still more than a month left before summer vacation, but Falcon Hill Elementary School in Mesa, Arizona stopped sending home homework assignments. They stopped printing lunch menus, permission slips, book lists, and internal memos. Why? Because they had run out of paper, a fundamental educational resource.
What kind of school runs out of paper? One that runs out of money.
“It’s a tight year for us, for sure, so you get to the end of the year, when things are tight, you might run out,” said Scott Thompson, finance director for the school district.
Arizona’s educational budget has never recovered from the 2008 depression. An educational levy in Mesa was supposed to raise the funding to fulfill the district’s shortfalls in November 2018, but it failed, which left local schools scrambling.
“That funding from the state has been cut for many years … and we really desperately need that money back,” Thompson said.
Walter Buse takes care of his grandson, a Falcon Hill student, and knows the boy’s schedule.
“Normally on a Monday he gets his homework for a week, and I thought, ‘well OK,’” said Buse in an interview with local TV network KGUN.
A missed day didn’t seem unlikely. But then no assignments came home for the week, and he decided to check with the school lest his grandson was pulling his leg. His student’s teacher confirmed what the boy had said; the school had no paper and was scrambling to reorganize itself.
Buse, a practical man, saw the lack of paper and realized there was an opportunity to help. He took it on himself to go shopping and dropped off a large shipment of printer paper.
“You’d think I carried in a basket of gold the way they acted at the office, so I knew it was appreciated,” said Buse with a grin.
It was the school’s idea to publicize the donation, in hopes that others would see it and follow suit. No other schools in the district have run out of paper yet this year, but it likely won’t be a one-off problem until Arizona resolves its budget shortcomings.