Back to school time is fast approaching and it’s going to take a larger bite out of the family budget to prepare for the first day of school, according to Yahoo News article published July 30, 2015.
Huntington Bank, a California based financial institution, publishes a so- called Backpack Index each year. It takes into account all of the out-of-pocket expenses that parents must pay for each child each year and includes not just notebooks and pencils, but other expenses like school activity fees. Based on the Backpack Index sample data, parents of elementary school age kids can expect to pay $649 per child for the 2015- 2016 school year. This represents a 1 percent increase from last year and shows that the idea of a “free” public education is anything but.
However, this is nothing compared to the cost of school for older kids. For parents of middle school students, the cost for supplies and activities is $941. And high school kids are, not surprisingly, the most expensive of all, costing mom and dad $1,402 per student this year. These middle school and high school figures represent 2.5 percent and 9 percent increases, respectively, compared to the previous school year.
Huntington Bank first released its Backpack Index back in 2007 and since that time, the cost for elementary school age students has jumped 85 percent. Middle school students have seen costs rise 78 percent and high school students have watched costs jump by 57 percent.
The reasons for the sharp increases are many, but much of the rise in school- related costs can be traced to budget cuts. With fewer dollars allocated to education, state and local governments have been forced to pass on extra costs to students. Also, it’s common nowadays to find added fees that didn’t exist in the recent past- things like science lab fees, physical education fees, and the like.
Parents do have a few places to turn to keep costs under control. Some schools offer special purchase plans for supplies and many have added fundraisers to the school year, with money earmarked toward paying for things once covered by taxpayer money.
With the increase in the cost of public education, many rightfully complain that what is supposed to be a free public education no longer is, and it’s particularly troublesome for low income families. This is certainly true, but don’t expect major changes anytime soon. We can expect more of the same as governments are forced to work with tighter budgets and continuously seek out ways to save money.