By Kirk Winter

You have already had the flyers arrive at your front door telling you it is back-to-school shopping season. If you have children in the school system, you are well aware that getting your children prepared to return to the classroom can be a daunting task, particularly if you are a one- income household or you are earning little more than the minimum wage.

The Retail Council of Canada has calculated that back to school shopping is now responsible for the second busiest shopping season, only trailing Christmas in money spent.

In the United States, parents will spend over $80 billion collectively on their school-aged children’s back to school needs. An average American family spends $519 US on each one of their K-12 aged children, and $1,362 US per child on every dependant attending post secondary.

I well remember late August as my wife and I got our three boys all the things they would need to return to school. By the time you threw in the occasional new piece of clothing, the Visa card was under considerable strain, and our kids were not looking for phones or I-Pads to complete the back to school look.

There are hundreds of families currently living at or below the poverty line, and many are unsure of how they are able to make the choices at this time of year. For many in CKL, after the rent and utilities are paid, it is a question of food or back-to-school supplies. A charity in Ottawa reported earlier this week that they are supplying 3,400 school-aged children with a new backpack full of school supplies for use in September, but with their current level of funding there will be many more on a wait list who will not be serviced.

In many schools in North America, this is where the classroom teacher comes to the rescue, spending their own funds to ensure their students have the necessities for surviving a new school year. The American Teachers Federation and the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario have surveyed their members to find that teachers are spending between $500 and $1,000 a year on supplies for their less fortunate students. In some places in the United States, teachers take home after taxes less than $2,000 a month, so this commitment to students is significant.

High school teacher friends have shared with me that their departmental budgets that are largely spent on student supplies have been cut by more than 33 percent in the last four years, with more cuts anticipated as the Ford government continues to look for supposed “efficiencies in government spending.” There is a time coming very soon where school budgets and teacher pay cheques will not be able to stretch far enough to support the number of less advantaged students that they currently are helping.

I saw teachers at my high school going through abandoned student lockers in June looking for school supplies left behind by generally more affluent students that they would save for distribution the next fall. The binders, pens, pencils, calculators and paper were re-gifted to those in need, and much appreciated.

If you are looking to help a local family this month, contact the United Way, the local Women’s Shelter or any other charitable organization that deals with children. I am certain they will make sure that your thoughtful donation assists a child get what they need to go back to school for another year with basics for success.