By PETTUS READ
I have recently been attending budget hearings in my county to learn more about where our tax dollars go, and after you come out of one of those meetings, you have to grab hold of something to stop your head from spinning around.
My county’s school system, for example, is the fifth largest in the state and the numbers that churn out of those budget meetings are very head spinning.
Providing an education for our children is no longer hiring a teacher, getting some chalk, a few erasers, a blackboard and a paddle. Blackboards are now white and dry erase, the teachers cover subjects today that did not exist back in my day and the paddle left school with me, and is something only talked about today by old guys who make them larger with each story told.
The school budgets of today cover school nurses, graduation counselors, lifesaving equipment, new air conditioner units and other items, that now have become necessities in our schools rather than just wants. As I listened to the budget discussion on these modern-day schools, I had to think back to my days when the classrooms were air conditioned by the windows being opened and the school nurse was the principal with a bottle of iodine.
Of course, it does cost more these days to raise a child. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that a middle-income family with a child born in 2010 can expect to spend about $226,920 ($286,860 if projected inflation costs are factored in) for food, shelter, and other necessities to raise that child over the next 17 years. Of course, that all depends if you have a kid who is low maintenance and is satisfied with just above average and not attempting to be a member of the overly popular group that demands the latest in everything. If that is the case, then you are out of luck with this USDA report.
That is around a 2 percent increase from the 2009 kid. The expenses with the greatest increases were transportation, childcare, education and health care, which are a big part of rearing a child. They showed small changes in housing, food, clothing and miscellaneous expenses on a child over that one-year period. This was based on a family income between $57,600 and $99,730. It seems the more you make the more you spend raising your child, so if you are making more than $99,730, you can expect to spend $377,040. I guess that extra cost is for silver spoons or something like that, figuratively speaking. If you make less than the $57,000 figure, your child is only going to cost you $163,440. I guess this proves that the more you have, the more you will spend.
Growing up on a Middle Tennessee farm, I don’t think I cost that much. As my preacher said one Sunday, “We were so poor that we ate cereal with a fork for breakfast and supper. The reason we used a fork was to save the milk.”
My early years of life were spent in an air-conditioned house. Whatever the condition of the air was outside, it was the same inside. However, the plumbing made up for that. You got plenty of exercise going to the well for water and going to the outhouse when needed. At an early age you developed bathroom discipline. Cost for all of this…priceless.
Every Saturday was spent “harvesting” and picking a chicken for Sunday dinner, which may have included the preacher as a dining guest. I guess you could say a lot of our chickens went into the “ministry.” But our meals included homegrown vegetables and meats, which never would have been included in a survey.
The good thing about my raising, starting as a 1948 model child, compared to the cost of today’s model child, is that my model wasn’t really involved that much in the competition of child rearing back in those days. Most of us boomers had about the same things and pretty much dressed alike. A couple pairs of blue jeans, a pull-over shirt, white socks and a pair of penny loafers was all you needed to get by. You had home clothes and schools clothes, which neither the two varieties did twine. Bored was not a word you dared to use around parents for fear of finding yourself moving hay bales from one side of the barn loft to the other and then back again or maybe even cleaning out a fence row which seemed to never get clean.
There is something to be said about us “antique kids.” We may have been cheap to create as kids, not costing a quarter of a million dollars to rear, but we are now costing a pretty penny to operate and keep running. What goes around comes around, I guess.
-- Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.
He may be contacted by e-