The Cost of Public Education

Parents are bracing themselves for sleep deprivation, soaring school supply costs, and rising fuel costs.

How much does public education cost?

A child attending public education is expected to pay a minimum of $500 per child to send them back to school; this is just for the basics. According to the public writers from, when you add up the cost of new clothes, shoes, books, bags, paper, pens, crayons, scissors, calculators, binders, copier paper, index cards, pens, pencils, rulers, erasers, pencil sharpeners, staplers, glue, and sundries just to name a few, it all adds up to big bucks for the unassuming parent.

You can add in the expense of brand name paper towels, sanitizers, tissues, paper, cleaning products, and other ‘classroom’ requests, plus a $30 classroom donation, and the teachers ‘dream list’ of items, lockers, and textbooks; you can be up for hundreds of dollars if you simply want to return your child to school in good favor.

Multiply these costs by the number of children per household; it can add up to thousands of dollars which come right at the end of your summer vacation.

How can you offset “back to school” costs?

  1. Shop during the year ‘out of season’ when school items often hit the clearance racks, you can pick up refill paper for 10c compared to 75c at ‘back to school shopping time.
  2. Use layaway to put away school clothing a size or two larger than they are in now and pay them off over time.
  3. Shop at $1 stores for school supplies, many will have the same brand name or comparable products for half the price.
  4. Take advantage of ‘State Tax-Free’ shopping holidays. I used to avoid these shopping days like the plague; it wasn’t worth my sanity to battle hundreds of parents and kids in messy aisles in the stores, but this year I battled the stores and managed to save around $45… I am not sure it was worth the money I saved, but it’s one day out of a lifetime and every little bit helps.
  5. Use coupons. Sunday papers often have Back to School coupons around this time of the year for items like scissors, post-it notes, and other school items which can save you a few dollars here and there.
  6. Look in the regular stationery aisles of the store and compare prices. I have found in recent years that the back-to-school aisles are crammed with the most expensive brand name items and the stationery aisle has other brands which offer just as good quality which is often 2/3 of the price of those on display in the Back to School section of the store.
  7. Save fuel and send your child to school on the bus. It is also good for children to interact socially with their peers and you will have an extra 90 minutes per day to use for ‘mommy’ time rather than sitting in the carpool line. It is a lot less wear and tears on your car also.
  8. If you don’t like the idea of the school bus, carpool with other parents in your street, you could alternate days so you are not both driving to school every day.
  9. If you don’t qualify for the free lunch program, pack your child’s lunch each day. I do not like the menu that is offered at our local schools. I don’t let my children eat fried food every day at home, so why let them eat it at school when they need fuel to perform to their best ability?

Home-made lunches will save you money and give your children better nutritional value. One loaf of bread will do sandwiches for a week. Pack bottled water, a piece of fruit for a snack, or a box of raisins; they will have all the energy and brain food they need to get through the day. You will also save money. Your children will be able to concentrate better at school too. It’s a WIN-WIN situation for everyone. You have more control over the sugar, salt, and junk food content your child is consuming.

I like to alternate fruit cups or fresh fruit for snacks one day and crisps or cookies another day, this way they don’t feel they are missing out on the ‘fun’ food. Everything in moderation is good. Get them involved in sandwich fillings; they are more likely to eat food they like if they are part of the process. Most children like healthy food if it is offered to them.

Eliminating “back to school” stress

  • Make sure your child is getting enough sleep. Children that stay up too late are irritable and cranky in the morning and unable to concentrate properly at school. Save yourself the aggravation (and your child’s teacher) by enforcing a ‘school day’ bedtime. You can be more flexible on the weekends on Fridays and Saturdays and reap the rewards of a weekend sleep-in.
  • Make sure you have a paper shredder ready to go. My biggest pet peeve of ‘back to school’ is the endless paper nonsense that comes home from school and is all over my room at home. I make sure that current notes go right on the fridge and those that are irrelevant get shredded immediately; it eliminates unnecessary clutter in your home.
  • Make sure your children’s immunizations are up to date before you start. Check the bus company’s a drop-off/pick-up route, schedule, and bus number ahead of time.
  • Make sure you have doctor’s authorization for any medications your child may need at school.
  • Help your child get organized for school at home, hang clothes up right away, do homework as soon as they get home, keep their bag and belongings tidy, washing to the laundry.
  • Make sure you have the teacher’s name, phone number, and email address; it’s a good idea to email this info to yourself and add it to your cell phone. Have the school and bus company’s phone numbers on speed dial.
  • Ask for any notes as soon as they get home, make this a habit, it will jog their memory if there are other things they need to tell you.
  • Remind your children as they are leaving in the morning about handing in notes and homework.
  • Arrange a time for their friends to visit after school so they have time to chat and play and aren’t doing it in class time.
  • If your child has access to a school locker, encourage them to use it. Textbooks are extremely heavy and can damage growing spines and backs if they carry them around all day.

“Back to school” stress can be eliminated by some early preparations at home. Don’t leave things to the last minute, get kids into their school routine a week or two ahead of school starting.