Society

Las Vegas is letting people pay for parking tickets with school supplies

The city will take pencils and paper instead of cash for one month.

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Drivers in Las Vegas will have a chance to give back to their community if they get a parking ticket this summer.

The Las Vegas City Council announced on June 19 that it voted unanimously to approve a month-long plan that allows parking tickets to be paid by donating school supplies instead. The program runs through mid-July and accepts new supplies equal to or greater than the value of the fine, the city council said in a statement. The initiative points to the burden the cost of school supplies put on parents and teachers across the country.

The city council provided a list of items the city will accept in lieu of paying a dollar amount. For tickets issued between June 19 and July 19 and within 30 days of the violation, people can donate materials from paper to pencils to disinfecting wipes to storage bins. The supplies will be donated to Teachers' Exchange, a nonprofit associated with the Public Education Foundation. The city council has been running occasional programs to accept charitable donations in place of parking fines.

Anya Harrington, a spokesperson for Communities in Schools, a nonprofit organization working within public schools in 25 states and Washington, DC, to empower at-risk students, has seen a steady need for school supplies in underserved communities. The organization hosts supply drives throughout the year to help students in need at any point so they can have the resources to learn.

“We’ve seen time and time again how it really is a challenge and a struggle for those low-income students and teachers who go in their pockets to supplement the needs of their kids,” Harrington said.

According to a survey conducted by the organization Junior Achievement USA, 60% of parents say that it’s a challenge to afford necessary school supplies. In public schools, 94% of teachers spend their own money, an average of $469 on supplies for their students and in some cases up to $1,000.

Communities in Schools partners with the Huntington Bank every year to release the BackPack Index, an annual report on the cost of school supplies for K-12 students. The Backpack Index for the 2018-2019 school year will be released in July. While the average prices of school supplies haven’t fluctuated much in recent years –– ranging between $637 and $1,400 –– the types of fees families need to pay have shifted to include more extracurriculars like field trips and music lessons, to college prep textbooks and gym uniforms. While these additional programs and activities enrich a child’s education, parents struggle to keep up with the costs.

Harrington, a parent of a 10-year-old daughter, has noticed from personal experience an increase in communal supplies on back-to-school lists, like three containers of Lysol wipes or five rolls or paper towels, for example.

“As a parent myself, I feel the obligation to ensure that my kid goes to school with everything she needs,” Harrington said. “But it’s also helpful to know if there is a need there are folks out there like nonprofit organizations, and, in this example, cities like Vegas that are thinking of filling that gap when need be.”

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