Supply Costs: It can be expensive getting ready for school

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Students aren’t quite ready to return to school, but their back-to-school lists are waiting for them when they are.
Some shoppers are taking care of business now, before the crush hits.
“If I wait until next week, it’ll be like the day after Thanksgiving,” said Ramona Randall, who was shopping with sons Cory, 9, and Chris, 6. “That way, I get it out of the way and avoid the craziness.”
She found just about everything she needed at a Walmart Supercenter. However, the slot for wide-ruled notebook paper was empty. A bin for color markers was running low, as was a spot for blunt-tipped scissors. Fortunately, around the corner where more school supplies were available, Randall found everything she needed except the paper.
“We’ll be back, I’m sure, but at least I got most of it out of the way,” she said.
While the lists vary, many include at least one or more of the following: crayons, No. 2 pencils, glue sticks, folders with pockets and clasps, binders, dry-erase markers, highlighters erasers and backpacks.
Zippered plastic bags, antiseptic wipes, tissue paper, hand sanitizer, paper towels and bandages also make their way on the lists, either as requested or “wish list” items.
The National Retail Federation estimated last week families with K-12 children will spend more than $603 per child on apparel, school supplies and electronics. On school supplies alone, families will spend nearly $89, the group said.
School districts say they don’t require anyone to buy everything on the lists and say it’s up to the individual schools and teachers to determine their needs.
“We get a certain amount of money, and we divide it equally with the teachers,” said Monroe County Schools Superintendent Scott Cantrell.
The past couple of years, teachers have been allocated about $150 for supplies, hardly enough to cover a room full of students through an entire year.
So, Cantrell said, teachers are given the discretion to come up with the lists for their classrooms to supplement what is needed.
“We also realize how much they spend out of their own pockets, too.”
Schools receive money for school supplies via the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, but the “1 percent rule” as it’s commonly called doesn’t go very far in the state’s 152 districts.
New Albany Schools Superintendent Charles Garrett said full funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program a few years ago allowed the district to give its teachers $400 each to spend on school supplies. But that’s happened only once.
“We’ve been able to give anywhere from $80 to $120 the other times,” he said.
The district also does what it can out of its own pocket to help teachers buy supplies, and parent-teacher groups also help, Garrett said.
And for parents like Joe and Carol Harden, buying school supplies comes with the territory.
“We’ve been buying them from kindergarten now through sixth-grade, so it’s not like we don’t expect it,” Joe said. “That doesn’t mean we have to like it, but there’s not much we can do about it, I guess.”
dennis.seid@journalinc.com