Archive for Sunday, July 29, 2007

Supplies add to cost of going back to school

Families expected to spend 7 percent more than last year

Caleb Dickinson-Cove, 7, and his sister Anya, 9, look over crayons while shopping Thursday at Target, 3201 Iowa. Parents this year are expected to spend 7 percent more on back-to-school merchandise than they did last year.

Caleb Dickinson-Cove, 7, and his sister Anya, 9, look over crayons while shopping Thursday at Target, 3201 Iowa. Parents this year are expected to spend 7 percent more on back-to-school merchandise than they did last year.

July 29, 2007


Lawrence Public Schools

Caleb Dickinson-Cove, 7, and his sister Anya, 9, pored over piles of crayon boxes and other school supplies this week at Target, 3201 Iowa.

Amid their energetic rush, Caleb and Anya were preparing for their return Aug. 15 to Schwegler School.

They stopped with their mom, Sahja Cove, to test out some backpacks.

Parents of students in Lawrence and area schools hit stores this week to buy school supplies. The earlier, the better, both for cost and selection, they said.

According to a recent national survey, families are expected to spend about $560 on back-to-school merchandise, which is up about 7 percent from $527 last year. That spending number includes many other items besides supplies, such as clothing and shoes. The National Retail Federation's survey mostly attributed the increase in costs to higher prices for electronic items such as computers and printers.

Sahja Cove estimated the family would spend close to $1,000 on back-to-school items but only about $50 on supplies.

"It's very affordable, I think. It's all comparable," said Cove, who will teach Spanish at Lawrence High School this year.

Added into back-to-school costs are Lawrence public school enrollment fees: $112 for students in all-day kindergarten through sixth grade; and more than $200 for junior high and high school students, depending on factors such as how many activities they participate in and whether they need a parking pass. Waivers are available for students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, and the district offers payment plans.

In Lawrence elementary schools, the school supply list for grade levels has stayed relatively the same for the past several years, two principals said. Teachers review it every two years, and individual schools are allowed to subtract but not add major items from the list.

"For the most part, the principals understand and try to keep it simple," said Elias Espinoza, principal of Wakarusa Valley School.

Parent-teacher organizations or local charities often collect supplies to donate to those who need them as well.

Cove said she considered the investment in back-to-school spending worth it. More than a year ago, the family moved from a California district with no fees. She noticed a poor quality of textbooks there.

"We didn't pay it, so what you get is quite limited," she said. "People seem to value education here and are willing to spend money on students in general."

Parents also said they were conscious of prices for overall back-to-school spending, particularly with gasoline prices around $3 per gallon recently.

"It definitely adds up. We try to recycle a few things, but it's fun for them to pick out new stuff," said Melissa Howard, of Eudora, whose daughters, Lauren and Emily, will attend elementary school there.

The family has cut down on day trips during the summer, she said. Wal-Mart stores earlier this month cited the national survey and fuel prices as the reason for dropping prices on back-to-school items.

Parent Bill Riley called buying back-to-school items "the cost of doing business."

At Target this week, he was with his daughter, Michaela, a Wakarusa Valley fourth-grader, and son, Justin, a South Junior High School seventh-grader.

"It's a fun time. They enjoy it. Well, Michaela enjoys it," Bill Riley said.

"I put it off. I don't want to think about it," Justin said.


mom_of_three 10 years, 9 months ago

Clothes have ALWAYS been considered a back to school item, even when I was a kid.
New year, new clothes, new shoes.

And I don't know of a town in Kansas that doesn't have some kind of enrollment fees. Yes, ours are among the highest in the state, but everyone has fees.
overpaid hippies - i don't think so.

stop being stupid

sourpuss 10 years, 9 months ago

Considering mathematics has not changed (at least on the k-12 level) since Newton, I would think that the school district could keep using the same books for that as long as they were in good order. Same with most language books. Sure, science needs some updating now and then (if they would stop changing the standards, more "then" than "now") but again, what a k-12er would need to learn hasn't, really. We aren't talking about cutting edge quantum string theory here. I don't think the gravitational constant has changed. You don't need shiny, new textbooks all of the time. Pretty pictures don't make for a better education.

As far as the "supplies" goes, yes, kids need some new clothes, especially undies, socks, etc., but your kid doesn't need a new backpack every year, or a new pencil case, or any of the other nicknacks kids seem to "need". I used the same backpack from 5th through 12th grade. As well, unless you are doing some SERIOUS measuring, your protractor, ruler, compass, etc. that you bought last year should still be fine. Get a binder, some paper, a few pens and pencils, and you are good to go. I mean, if a college student only needs some paper and a pen, then a high schooler doesn't need more than that.

mom_of_three 10 years, 9 months ago

No, math hasn't changed, but the techniques in teaching it have. Evidently, you don't have kids. I learned exponents in 7th grade, and my kid learned it in 4th. They teach division differently than they used to.
My kids have used the same backpack for a couple of years. Usually, the reason they are replaced is because they are falling apart. When I was a kid, we didn't use backpacks. Yes, some things can be used from year to year. But in grade school, you usually need new ones of paint, crayons, etc. each year, because of the use.
Don't you remember buying school supplies each year? Each year, teachers require different items, and so just a binder and paper may not due the trick. Let's be realistic. You can buy supplies without spending a ton of money. But there are some things you will have to buy.

sourpuss 10 years, 9 months ago

I do remember buying supplies, and I didn't get that many of them after grade 3 or so (I don't think we ever did use the stupid modeling clay we always seemed to have to get). I normally reused stuff or didn't buy them. I never did have a calculator, for instance, though we were allowed to use them. I still think a lot of the school supply silliness is just conspicuous consumption for kids. So much of it seems branded - you have to be paying for that Bratz notebook after all.

I am aware that they keep changing how they teach math (first it was the "New Math" in the 60s), but HOW you teach it doesn't have to have anything to do with the textbook. I teach at a university and the way I teach a class from the same book is very different than another instructor. So I still don't think the books need replacing. If you want to teach exponents to kinder garners, then teach it to them. I mean, the teachers are supposed to know this stuff... you don't even really need a book, just hand out worksheets. But, the publishers have to make their buck off the taxpayers, I guess.

I always hated getting new textbooks anyway, because if anything happened to them, it was obviously my fault. The grimy ones at least didn't need to be hermetically sealed between glances.

hammysammy 10 years, 9 months ago

Sourpuss-Since you teach at a university perhaps you can help explain why they are far more likely to opt for newer editions and force students to order pricey textbooks that the majority of the time, they really could've done without. I know the publishers are guilty of issuing new editions every few years just for money with almost inconsequential changes, but university professors do little to try and prevent it. And as far as math textbooks go, if the technique has changed, so must the book , because the math problems in the book will be different. And that is where the homework and assignments are. But books get used hard by small children, as I recall so would require frequent replacing.

Nikki May 10 years, 9 months ago

I totally wanted to get in on the argument, but really I have nothing to add. I like to buy new back packs for my kids. This will be my son's first year and first back pack. I keep their memories in their backpacks from each year. Kindergarten papers in the backpack they carry to kindergarten. Just what I do, although my daughter wants to go back to one of her old backpacks sometimes so I have to modify for her. Anyway sourpuss, you don't NEED to get bratz notebooks. I pay for the cheap plain ones (10 for a dollar). If my kids want more than that, they pay for their own.

Anyway, I hate paying fees, but I'm not whining about it.

mom_of_three 10 years, 9 months ago

I don't buy the bratz notebooks either. $10 for a dollar, and buy extra for throughout the year. Everything I buy on sale - pens, highlights, etc. or on clearance. And if they can reuse something for the next year, they do.

But the textbooks have changed. If a 4th grader is learning exponents, that wasn't in a 4th grade textbook 10 or 20 years ago. And yes, they are teaching multiplication much differently than when I learned when I was a kid. So the books must change.

Hawk, you know nothing about WRAP. Nothing at all......

purplesage 10 years, 9 months ago

I have been in a spot where text book fees would have been a virtual impossibility for our family. In addition to these fees, schools have their hands out for this and that all year long. There is an incredible business of supplying "education" - hence all the fund raisers and opportunities to order all sorts of things for kids. I think the cost is too high. Have you see the very detailed supply lists teachers now provide?.

mom_of_three 10 years, 9 months ago

Yes, the fees are high. I have been paying for them for 13 years, and it gets worse as they get older. The very minimum for high school is $162, and if you have one in music, a sport, arts, etc., the charges keep going up. The fees were raised several years ago when our school funding was cut. 2/3 of that money came back a couple of years ago, and yet no fee cut. Where is the money going? Funding WRAP should be a no brainer, as well as reducing fees for parents.

kugrad 10 years, 9 months ago

Uh, Sourpuss, you should probably review your facts before spouting off. Math itself changes only in small ways, but the curriculum of even 10-15 years ago is outdated now. Math instruction is much more complex than simply "working problems" or using flash cards. I won't bother with the details. Suffice it to say that your comments are completely off base.

jayhawk1234 10 years, 9 months ago

i belive eudora does not have enrollment fees.

Confrontation 10 years, 9 months ago

I'm sure the prices are high, but people act as if they were forced to have children. If you couldn't afford them and their school supplies, then you shouldn't have had them. Don't complain to everyone else because you made a choice that you now can't afford. No, the fees shouldn't be raised and the teachers request too many supplies (which many teachers hoard or put on Ebay).

perkins 10 years, 9 months ago

Good points raised by all. Thank goodness there still is some local control of education despite No Child Left Behind. Regarding textbooks, I like the approach taken by the majority of schools. This user-fee might encourage parents to scold if they see their kids treating books roughly, and attend the first teacher conference if by mid-October they have never seen their child's textbooks they wrote a check for. But if Eudora wants the general fund to pay 100% of book fees, go for it.

Regarding supplies, this is America, so some idiot will always be around to overspend. But it does not seem as though Lawrence requirements are inordinate.

Now, couldn't the newspaper have found someone other than an apparently non-tenured teacher to ask about the soundness of the district's enrollment fee/textbook policies?

mom_of_three 10 years, 9 months ago


God forbid a circumstance comes up you are not prepared for in the raising of your kids, such as divorce, illness or death. Of course, everyone should be prepared for the cost of going to school triples one year. Maybe everyone should be multi-millionaires before you can have children. (please note sarcasm.).

Confrontation 10 years, 9 months ago

Most people who can't afford to raise their kids are those people who had circumstances before they conceived their kids.

purplesage 10 years, 9 months ago

Textbooks? What textbooks? I usually see photostatic copies of worksheets.

Yes, there are some smaller school districts where the trend has been resisted and there are not textbook fees.

Kat Christian 10 years, 9 months ago

Well I think paying a school fee is highway robbery since this is a public school and don't my taxes already pay for this? I never had to pay school fees or have to buy so many school supplies for my children (they grew up in Maryland and they still don't). Now that I have my grandson I can't believe the fees that are required. Well he's using last year's supplies they're still in good shape. I'm not buying anymore tissues or wet wipes they never get used up and they don't return them at the end of the year. As for new clothes - NOPE can't afford them he'll just wear what he has and he'll get new sneakers when the weather starts changing when I saved up enough money to buy them. As for the school fee I think he was eligible for a waiver (Thank God) otherwise I would have to take it out of the grocery money and pay a portion each month until school ends. Ridiculous. So even though I don't have to pay that fee I do expect top notch educational training for my grandson and if he doesn't get it then I'll be at that school to find out why. My taxes aren't paying for my child to just be housed all day. And I hope you folks feel the same way - especially those who do have to pay that school fee. To me it's just double dipping - pay taxes for the school then extra for each child again.

Julie Jacob 10 years, 9 months ago

I was looking for the payment schedule for school fees (since I can't pay them all up front this year) and located this article back in July 2005. School board members wanted to decrease enrollment fees then. Two years later and no change, now why does that NOT suprise me?

Julie Jacob 10 years, 9 months ago

perkins (Anonymous) says: "Regarding textbooks, I like the approach taken by the majority of schools. This user-fee might encourage parents to scold if they see their kids treating books roughly, and attend the first teacher conference if by mid-October they have never seen their child's textbooks they wrote a check for."

Perkins, I have a 3rd grader and an 8th grader and the only time I DO see a text book is at conferences. When my now 8th grader was in elementary school I was told they were not allowed to bring the text books home, and that was on more than one parent teacher conference. Reason: not enough books to go around if they all got their own.

Aileen Dingus 10 years, 9 months ago

Confrontation- yeah. You're right- there is a booming black market for #2 pencils and generic tissues. Those fat cat teachers are going to retire early selling the markers and wide ruled paper on eBay! You got it pegged!

Linda Endicott 10 years, 9 months ago

$112 fee? Per child? That is just outrageous...

What are they making textbooks out of anymore? Gold?

Oh, yeah, Confrontation, I'm sure that's something every person who is considering having children thinks about..."honey, before you get pregnant, we'd better go check at the school and see what their fees are first"...sheesh.

Oh, and you'd better try to find out first what those fees will be after five years, because of course your baby won't be going to school until then...and also try to find out what the price of school supplies will be in five years...and you'd better decide exactly where you'll be living in five years, because what the fees are will depend on where you're located...

You know, confrontation, something tells me that your parents didn't consider any of those things before they had YOU...

KSChick1 10 years, 9 months ago

if you qualify for reduced/free lunches, your school fees are also waived you can apply at the Ballard Center or other social service agencies for school supplies, including your child's school (some of the elementary schools here in town also have food pantries and offer xmas adoptions) Native American Student Services will provide all school supplies each year for every child if you have documentation of your native blood lots of businesses hold drives and donate supplies to schools and schools also have slush funds for supplies, to help the kids who can't afford them there is help out there otherwise, save up for your school shopping like I do-I plan for months for clothes and fees and lunches, all of which I pay full price for because the school district says I make enough money to do so, yet I have to save for months to pay everything...

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