Families, teachers spending more on school supplies

Year after year, spending to have students set for that first day is climbing to astronomical numbers.
Published: Aug. 24, 2023 at 12:11 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Year after year, spending to have students set for that first day is climbing to astronomical numbers.

The sign of every summer ending is back-to-school shopping. The seasonal section of stores shifts from sunblock to scissors and, with that, comes a hefty bill.

While researching the inflated costs of school supplies, we came across a trend. Teachers shared Amazon Wishlists with their community for help outfitting their classroom. Although none wanted to talk about the trend on-camera, one agreed to on an anonymous basis.

“Of course, right? Everything has gone up in price,” said one teacher.

Aside from her own fifth grade classroom, this educator has a list for her own second grader to take care of.

“Luckily, my child is young enough that the list isn’t very extensive, but I know that from my job like…what I ask my families to get compared to what I’m asked to get is probably double what I have to get for my elementary student,” the teacher explained.

According to the National Retail Federation, after plateauing from 2013 to 2019, 2020 came with a significant spike in spending. It’s been increasing ever since and our teacher confirmed she’s seen it first-hand since becoming an educator.

“Initially, when I started to decorate my class, the prices of the things I would buy for my own classroom decorations…they were much cheaper than they are now,” the teacher explained.

Even her supplies now, things have gone up. The National Retail Federation estimates back-to-school spending will reach $41.5 billion in 2023, almost five billion more than last year. One viewer shared with us the breakdown of her back-to-school bill. They bought their child six notebooks and folders, one planner, one backpack, Post-It notes, pens, and pencils for $150 dollars.

“Yikes, wow, that’s a lot. That’s really a lot. Yeah, I mean…that’s really surprising. My teacher brain is going ‘What kind of notebooks did that teacher want?’ because some teachers get really specific about the materials they want, which I do understand,” the teacher added.

While expensive, this educator told us there is a method behind the madness that can come with a student’s school supplies list.

“There’s a lot of things that are underlying in those choices that aren’t really transparent to people…For example, in junior high, one of the science standards you’re actually working with is teaching children the practice of organizing their notes, so even though we’re even teaching children water cycle or whatever, the actual curricular standards are, there are habits that are built-in to what we’re supposed to be teaching,” the teacher explained.

While this educator said they can’t always support a whole classroom, she shared they’re there for when things fall short.

“I feel like, I may just be speaking for myself, but I have never met a teacher that is not a secret hoarder of supplies and books and pens and notebooks. We have stuff, so if it comes down to it, I know it can be hard to communicate the need with the teacher, but we’re always willing to supply things and the resources are there,” the teacher said.