School Costs And Spending Increase, Pinching Family Budgets

Aug 18, 2014

Back to school costs are up, and so is the demand for free or donated school supplies. 

Brian Bull of member station WCPN in Cleveland reports.

For 2014, the National Retail Federation says there’s a 12 percent increase in spending, while Huntington Bank’s yearly “backpack index” shows an 11 jump in school supply costs. Part of the reason for that is that school districts are trying to work with limited funding, passing on the costs to families who may need to shell out more for paper, cleaning supplies, and markers, among others. 

And Penny Hawk says for low-income families, it’s especially tight…given the growing presence of technology in the classroom.

PHawk01: “We know that things that are high tech cost more than the basic pencil, paper, and crayons.” (:07)

Hawk is with the non-profit group, Kids In Need Foundation. She says gadgets like scientific calculators and similar devices can really hurt a family’s budget.  Last year, her Foundation distributed 70 million dollars’ worth of donated school supplies nationally, with more than 3 million going to kids in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Dayton. 

PHawk02: “It’s one of the barriers that kids find themselves against through no fault of their own of course, but when they get to school, they don’t have the supplies they need to fully participate in the classroom experiences.” (:14)

Twinsburg mom Kelly Swanson says she’s fortunate to make enough money as a pre-school teacher and nanny to support her 9th grade son’s education. But she says it still takes shrewd shopping to shoulder the expense, which includes that scientific calculator that goes for up to 150 dollars.  Swanson says dealing with the school shopping frenzy everywhere is costly enough.  

KSwanson01:  “Just the not knowing of what I have to buy at this point and probably having to go to maybe your Office Max or more expensive places versus the Dollar Store or a Walmart, because they’re running out of everything….is the frustration I’m having right now.” (:15)

Swanson says her son will NOT lose that calculator, by the way.