The pandemic years of education have been unsettling, confusing, and haphazard. We saw children in and out of school on hybrid schedules, schooling at home and not schooling at all. School is back and parents are faced with the sticker shock of inflated school supply prices. Everything from clothing to gasoline to pencils is going to cost more this year.
“Last year, shoppers were flush with cash from stimulus money…but spiking energy prices, declining federal stimulus, rising interest rates, supply chain disruptions and falling personal savings are all taking a toll, especially on lower-income families.”[i] Depending on which report you access, 2021 school supply cost per student was between $250-450. With inflation around 9% this year, that cost will rise significantly.
Teachers will also feel the effect. On average, a teacher will spend between $500-1,000 of his/her own money to supply the classroom.[ii] When parents run short of what they can provide, teachers often make up the difference. Since the pandemic, shared supplies have not always been possible, contributing to the need for more than the usual number of pencils, crayons, etc. Extra materials for sanitizing desks and hands are an additional expense. One pastor heading up a school supply drive emphasized to the congregation that what you don’t supply, the teacher may be responsible for. Two of the part-time pastors in that church are teachers.[iii]
How can parents find solutions to the high cost of preparing their children for school this year? Purchasing refurbished electronics will help. Laptops that have been refurbished are sold at a discounted price. They often have the software already loaded and it is eco-friendly to re-purpose old laptops. Look for a reputable source with a guarantee and a fair return policy.[iv] Some major online retailers have new backpacks listed that are of good quality for less. The backpack needs to be strong enough to hold up under the weight of heavy books for the year, so don’t cheap out on the quality. Thrift stores are another source for book, lunch, and laptop bags. Kids can personalize them by adding stickers and paints.
Encourage children and teens to be proactive in the process. Work out a budget and give them choices that fit within the budget. If an item is more of a “want” than a “need” presents an opportunity for them to earn extra money. Shopping for clothing with a budget will allow your child to consider choosing off brands in favor of more clothing or go with a designer garment knowing they will wear it more often. Shoes are another item where quality counts, so budget extra for those.
How can others help? Host a school supply drive in your church, on social media, or in your neighborhood. Research the need in your community. Ask local schools if they collect shoes and clothing for children needing those resources in the school. School nurses are often a good source for information of this kind. “Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
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[i] https://nypost.com/2022/06/30/back-to-school-spending-expected-to-plunge-amid-inflation/ [ii] https://www.savings.com/insights/teacher-spending-study#:~:text=The%20overall%20average%20spent%20out,at%20all%20for%20classroom%20supplies. [iii] Surprise Christian Church, Pastor Drew Carroll [iv] https://www.recompute.com.au/blog/5-reasons-why-refurbished-computers-are-a-great-option-for-kids/