Parents struggle with rising back-to-school costs

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 27, 2010

VIDALIA — With the start of school comes the inevitability of purchasing school supplies, and local residents and schools are both struggling with the costs of education.

Sabrina Smedley, parent of a third grader at Vidalia Upper Elementary, said she spent approximately $100 for her child this year for supplies.

“I also had to buy uniforms for my child to wear,” she said.

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Smedley said the supply lists this year were not much different than in previous years, but there were some things that stood out.

“They specified brand names for the items that they wanted,” she said. “It doesn’t allow you to save that little extra you normally would for buying the same thing of a cheaper brand.”

Vidalia Upper Elementary School principal Darla Johnston said the brand names are merely a suggestion for the parents and the school will make do with whatever items they receive.

“We only put names like Crayola and Elmer’s on the list because some of the other brands do not work as well,” Johnston said. “The Elmer’s and Crayola are also on sale at the beginning of the school year and they can be bought for cheap.”

Johnston said the school supply issue is something that is unavoidable.

“I have over 400 kids at my school. Not everyone is going to be happy,” she said. “The government cut everyone’s funding this year and there is not enough money for supplies.”

Smedley also said that some of the items on the list appeared a little strange to her.

“I don’t mind getting notebooks and binders for my child,” she said. “But things like 72 pencils and six boxes of crayons are a little excessive.”

Johnston said the teachers have these items in bulk so they can pass them out throughout the year whenever they are needed.

“Doing this helps save parents from having to go out and get more items in the middle of the year,” she said. “Parents want the list early so they can buy early because the prices are cheaper.”

Vidalia Junior High School principal Whest Shirley said because of the large quantities of some items and the number of complaints he has received, VJHS would be changing how they do the supplies next year.

“We are going to try and go with no supply list,” he said. “Vidalia Junior High School is going to do something different.”

Shirley said his school is going to try and get supplies through donations.

“What we don’t have donated we are going to try and buy with school funds,” Shirley said.

Kristi Stewart is a parent of five children in the Concordia Parish School District and said the cost of supplies for all of her children is hard to afford.

“A lot of people have more than one child in the school system,” Stewart said. “There are way too many items on the list and it is very, very expensive.”

Stewart also said the state of the economy is not helping.

“The country is in a bad spot,” she said. “Buying supplies for five kids can really put someone in a bind.”

Vidalia High School principal Rick Brown said the supply lists are left up to the teachers at his school.

“Teacher allotments are used for supplies in the school,” Brown said. “They used to be able to afford them, but now they can no longer foot the bill.”

Jonhston said her teachers are feeling a dent in their own wallets.

“I had one teacher this year find folders on sale and purchase them with her on money to give to the children,” Johnston said.

Brown said VHS has asked parents for more supplies because the costs have gotten too high.

“We try and pay for as much of the bill as we can,” he said. “Extra things like Germ-X and soap are only there to keep sickness and absences down.”

Smedley said there are ways she has heard to help lower costs.

“My niece goes to school in California, and at her school they are given an option to buy their own supplies or pay a fee,” she said. “The school buys the items the students need in bulk and uses the fee money to purchase them.”

Smedley said this is just one way in which the costs can be lowered.

“I know California is not Vidalia,” she said. “But ideas like this are a good starting point.”