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Families will spend up to $1,355 per child on back to school, Backpack Index shows

Aug. 1, 2018

Back-to-school supply lists can be long — folders, glue sticks, pencils, notebooks. Not to mention new school uniforms and items needed for baseball practice, cheerleading or glee club. Shopping carts brim with goods this time of year, and they often come with a hefty price tag.

Although families across the nation can still expect to pay several hundred dollars per student for school supplies and activities this year, there's some good news.

According to the 2018 Backpack Index, a study that tracks classroom supply and fee costs, the cost of outfitting a child for back to school fell slightly this year.

The study found parents can expect to pay $637 for elementary students, $941 for middle school students and $1,355 for high school students, on average. That's about a 6 percent decrease from last year's expected costs. 

The study's authors determined the prices by randomly selecting schools in eight states and pricingthe back-to-school items at majornational retailers. 

"While the 2018 index found some good news for families, parents continue to pay significant sums to equip their children for a successful school year," says George Mokrzan, chief economist for Huntington Bank, which co-released the Backpack Index.

The amount Arizona parents must shell out for supplies depends on the district, the type of school and the age of the child. Some parents reported spending as little as $25, others more than $200 for supplies alone. 

Many families struggle to keep up. In Arizona, more than 600,000 children receive free or reduced lunch at school.  Almost 1,000 schools have a majority of students who qualify for the lunch program.

As president of Arizona's teacher's union, Joe Thomas said he's seen the struggle firsthand. He recalled a young girl whose family couldn't afford eyeglasses. The Arizona Education Association picked up the bill.

If families can’t afford the essentials, they don't have enough money for a backpack or other supplies, he said.

“Those types of needs go beyond what schools have to supply, but it describes the need,” Thomas said.

Read the full article. Additional coverage of the 2018 Backpack Index can be found at ABC and Fatherly

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