Inflation hits back-to-school shopping for Portland classrooms

Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 9:56 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - With the school year fast approaching, preparations have begun, but buying school supplies is pricier this year with record high inflation.

DataWeave, a retail analytic firm, reports low-cost school supplies like notebooks, folders, writing materials, and items for art projects are up 25% compared to last year. The National Retail Federation said Scotch-Tape is up 70%, Sharpies are up nearly 55%, and Elmer’s Glue is up 30%. Despite the rise in cost, American families are expected to spend $11 billion more on school supplies this year that than three years ago. That’s $168 more per family.

It’s not just families having to buy school supplies, teachers too. Russ Peterson is a social studies teacher at Grant High School in Northeast Portland. He said Portland Public Schools gives their teachers a $100 stipend for school supplies, but teachers still spend more than that every year for their students. Peterson said he hasn’t done his back-to-school shopping yet this year, but he knows the grand total will be more than last year.

“I’m a little anxious to see what the bill is going to be,” Peterson said.

He said as a high school teacher, he doesn’t have to invest as much into his classroom as elementary and middle school teachers. He also has been teaching for more than two decades so he’s been able to reuse supplies over the years. But he said it’s the first time teachers will be feeling the pain of inflation.

“I must have spent somewhere between $300 and $600 dollars those first couple of years just consumables, maps not knowing what students are going to need,” Peterson said. “The initial cost was kind of surprising and I wasn’t prepared for that.”

Adjusted for today’s inflation, Peterson said he likely would have spent anywhere between $800 to $1,100 to get his classroom ready. He said this year’s costly academic year may show some inequities in schools as some families struggle to buy the necessities for their students.

“Schools where there’s a little more wiggle room financially, they’re going to land on their feet,” Peterson said. “But in our title one schools particularly, I think our teachers are going to be facing some really hard decisions and they’re going to have to dig deep and fill that gap as best as they can.”

Even though inflation is a concern for him and his students, Peterson said he’s happy to start a new school year, in-person, unlike the last two years.

“I’m very much looking forward to a year without masks, seeing my students, meeting my new classes, and really getting things off to a good start,” Peterson said. “So despite of inflation, I have a real positive outlook for the school year it’s going to be a good year.”