Alton, IL

Back to School Costs

Story by WBGZ Radio

It's not cheap to send students back to school. Parents have to buy new clothes, new shoes, a new computer, and all of those school supplies.

With the state of Illinois increasing its income tax rate by 32 percent this summer, costing the average household an additional $1,000 annually, back-to-school shopping can become that much more of a burden on some families.

The National Retail Federation says the average cost to go back to school – not including school registration fees – is just under $670 per student. 

Jennifer Prather has four kids going back to school in Lincoln, and one going to college. She said the one thing she doesn't have is almost $700 per child.

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"It could see it costing me that much if I added together all of the clothes and such," Prather said. "If my mom and dad didn't help, I'd be in a lot of trouble with all of my kids."

Prather said she doesn't mind buying new clothes, shoes and the other things that her kids need. She does take issue with the very specific back-to-school lists that schools now require.

"Now they've added the composition notebooks, the X amount of binders," Prather added. "Three inch binders, two inch binders, one inch binders. The one thing I thought was kind of crazy was three containers of Clorox wipes per kid."

Brian Minsker, president of the Illinois Parent Teacher Association, agreed that back-to-school lists are out of hand, but blamed it in part on lack of state funding.
"Back to school classroom lists are too much," Minsker said. "It is no longer just pencils, notebooks, and crayons, but tissues, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and more. For older grades, that list often includes an expensive graphing calculator."
Illinois schools largely rely on property taxes to pay for schools, and homeowners here pay the second highest property taxes in the country. High teacher pension costs, administrative compensation and the overall high number of school districts in the state also contribute to fewer tax dollars reaching classrooms.
The National Retail Federation's estimate of $670 per child in back-to-school costs does not include registration fees. Prather said she paid a couple of hundred dollars in registration and athletic fees this year.

The Illinois Association of School Administrators says it doesn't track the cost of registration fees. 

(Copyright WBGZ Radio /


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