Tags: school | shopping | education | cost

CNBC: Cost of School Supplies Threatens Quality of Public Education for Poor

By    |   Monday, 11 August 2014 02:33 PM

Back to school costs are soaring, pressuring families' budgets and raising concerns about equal access to quality education.

The list of school supplies is no longer limited to basic items like #2 pencils, tablets and folders. Students are now required to buy paper towels and cleaning supplies, dry erase markers and construction paper.

On average, a family with kids in kindergarten through 12th grade will spend $669 on back-to-school shopping, a 5 percent increase from last year for a total of $26.5 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

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For many middle class families higher costs will present a challenge, requiring more savvy money management. For poor families, it's actually a burden, CNBC reports. And it can require making tough choices, such as not paying utility bills or having a child return to school unprepared.

Experts note that school districts have less money for supplies so they are forced to rely more on parents.

To avoid layoffs, districts will try to cut spending anywhere they can, and that includes cutting supplies, Kim Rueben, a senior fellow with the Tax Policy Center, tells CNBC.

Technology is also leading to higher school shopping costs said Darrell Bulmer, a spokesman for Hopelink, a non-profit.

School supplies for a middle school student are more than $100 higher this year than last year, Huntington Bank found in an annual survey conducted in states where it operates. That increase was largely due to the higher costs of calculators, CNBC reports.

"People are asking for USB drives and things like that," Bulmer tells CNBC. "There's a new expectation."

Dan Cardinali, president of dropout-prevention group Communities In Schools, describes technology items as "a requirement in order for young people to participate."

"School supplies are a great example . . . of barriers that preclude them from being able to break the cycle of poverty," Cardinali argues.

Non-profit organizations are trying to help by distributing backpacks and schools supplies to struggling families, but they say the need is greater than their resources. And teachers are increasingly pulling more money out of their pockets to help fill the gap.

But concerns are rising that expecting lower-income parents to pick up more of the tab because schools' budgets are tight can lead to a two-tier educational experience that affects children socially and impacts their ability to learn, Cardinali states.

"The quality of your education shouldn't vary with your ability to pay," Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor of education and history at New York University told CNBC.

"This is a shared responsibility, regardless of the choices that individual parents and families make about their education. . . . We're losing the public in public education," he said.

"You say, how is back-to-school going to be?" New York-based retail consultant Howard Davidowitz asked. "Back-to-school is going to be price-sensitive for 80 percent of the people. They're going to watch every nickel, and they should..." he tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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Back to school costs are soaring, pressuring families' budgets and raising concerns about equal access to quality education.
school, shopping, education, cost
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2014-33-11
Monday, 11 August 2014 02:33 PM
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