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Reconsidering the Supplement for the purchase of school supplies

Opinion: Making the case for a flexible school fund in Quebec

Prepared by Vanessa Galarneau (Chief Finance Officer)

Pour voir cet article en français, cliquez ici  !

The Supplement for the Purchase of School Supplies

It’s September, which means that many families across the country are focusing their time, money, and effort on getting their children ready for another school year. This means buying school supplies, textbooks/workbooks, uniforms, footwear, outerwear, and brand new technology – amongst many, many other things! In today’s digital age, these costs can quickly add up, and with the economy being what it is, many families are feeling the financial strain.

Source: CTV News

When I worked as an assistant summer camp manager at Ville de gatineau, I saw firsthand the financial hardships that parents have to go through, every August-September, in order to get their little ones ready for another exciting year with their friends. On more than one occasion, I saw one of my campers sent in with little-to-nothing for lunch because their parents, back home, were saving up to buy notebooks and pencils. These sad scenes definitely aren’t uncommon. With the Canadian inflation rate on the rise yet again (source), many households are struggling to pay for groceries – let alone a long list of supplies that their children need for school. This problem is amplified as families grow in size.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this problem, and reading up on how to address it. My thoughts remain on one of the provincial solutions to this problem. That being: Retraite Quebec’s Supplement for the Purchase of School Supplies. (Click here to learn more


Under this initiative, in Quebec, the Family Allowance program extends a financial lifeline to families by providing $115 (CAD) per child aged 4-16, offering universal eligibility, and ensuring automatic payments without the need for an application. While I think that this support is undoubtedly valuable, it’s important that we examine the limitations of this initiative in case there are alternatives that better enhance the educational experience for children – while also easing financial burdens on parents.

Limitations to the Supplement

A fixed financial supplement per child, while well-intentioned, has some inherent limitations. The primary being that families come in all shapes and sizes. Each household has its own unique needs and circumstances. A few that come to mind include: 

  • • Special education needs
  • • Language barriers
  • • Socioeconomic status (low-income)
  • • Single-parent households
  • • Unhoused families
  • • Chronic illnesses
  • • Technology barriers (due to remote/rural location of the household)
  • • Families with custodial arrangements. 


The list goes on and on! 

It’s just not the case that a one-time payment of $115 per child will magically meet a lot of these needs. There is also the consideration that some families that may not need the same financial support others do. These families will still benefit from the supplement – when this money could instead be recirculated to meet some of the needs mentioned above.

School Districts, CEGEPs, or Education Zones may also have their own set of unique problems that require more hands-on attention or spending on the behalf of parents. The fact remains that a one-size-fits all approach does not effectively address the root problems


My Thoughts on a Potential Solution

To address these limitations and promote more equitable access to educational resources, I propose a flexible school fund, administered by the academic institution at each grade level.

This fund would allow schools to create a standard education kit that includes binders, books, writing materials, paper, calculators, uniforms, and much more. Educational materials would be standardized to level the playing field for all students, despite any socioeconomic differences that may divide a student body.

The access (or lack thereof) to quality educational materials has always had a serious psychological impact on students. When some students arrive at school with state-of-the-art calculators and pristine notebooks, while others have to ‘make do’ with worn out or inadequate supplies, it can create a sense of stigma and low self-esteem. These feelings of inadequacy can affect the child’s overall educational experience, as they may be less likely to engage in classroom activities or seek help when needed. 

A standardized approach to this problem would see an entire student body equipped with the same quality materials, and would directly address the divisions and inequality found within a student body of diverse backgrounds. Empowering schools with discretion in fund usage can also cater to specific needs within their unique communities. It offers the potential to address resource disparities and invest in education quality where it matters most. 


Further Benefits of a Flexible School Fund

The benefits of a flexible school fund extend far beyond leveling the playing field for students. Schools could use these funds to invest in additional education programs, materials, or extracurricular activities – such as clubs or sports teams. These improved after-school programs give the children an excellent opportunity for socialization while offering parents more flexibility in their schedules, easing the burden of juggling work and family life. 

Furthermore, Retraite Quebec representatives could collaborate closely with schools and school boards to ensure that the funding is being properly allocated. This collaboration could create new job opportunities in Quebec and promote further economic growth!

Flexible school funds could also be perceived as investments in the creation of Innovation Zones, fostering a culture of creativity and advancement in education. 

Importantly, involving parents, teachers, and the community at large in decisions about fund allocation ensures that resources are directed where they are most needed and valued. This participatory approach promotes transparency and accountability while fostering a sense of community ownership over educational outcomes. 


My Final Thoughts

It is high time to rethink the back-to-school family allowance support in Quebec. While the existing program has certainly provided essential assistance to countless families, it’s equally crucial to explore innovative approaches that can lead to more equitable educational opportunities for Quebec’s children.

By redirecting resources to support flexible school funds, Quebec can empower schools to bridge resource disparities and invest in education quality. I encourage policymakers and stakeholders to consider these innovative approaches, keeping in mind the well-being and future prospects of our students and families.

📚 🍎 ✏️

I’ve compiled a list of helpful links that can assist the teacher, parent, or student in their journey back to school this September. See below! 


Happy back-to-school season, 

Vanessa Galarneau | Chief Financial Officer 

Rain Technologies Inc. 

Some Back-to-School Resources for all: 

Teachers: Line 46900 

  • If you were an eligible educator, you can claim up to $1,000 of eligible supplies expenses.

Parents: Child and Family Benefits 

  • A list of tax credits or benefits that are applied to families or students with dependents that require financial assistance. 

Students: Student Aid

  • Student grants and loans, scholarships, apprentice loans and grants.

To donate to Sharing in Student Success – A NFP that helps to equip students with all the back to school supplies they need for as little as $32 – click here.

John Burnside

John Burnside!