Our View

American families are expected to spend a record amount of money this fall to go back to school.

That's according to the National Retail Federation, which projects that families with children in elementary school through high school plan to spend an average of $696.70. That’s up from $684.79 last year and tops the previous record of $688.62 set in 2012.

Total back-to-school spending this fall by families with K-12 children is projected to be $26.2 billion. Yep, that's "billion" with a "b."

According to the National Retail Federation survey, clothing and accessories will top K-12 families’ expenses at an average of $239.82, followed by electronics such as computers, calculators and phones ($203.44), shoes ($135.96), and supplies such as notebooks, pencils, backpacks and lunch boxes ($117.49).

School supplies are a necessity this time of year. Imagine being a ninth grader and starting your new algebra class without a calculator, or a kindergartner without scissors and watercolors. Imagine the fast-growing sixth grader needing a new pair of tennis shoes for gym class, or the high school sophomore needing a new backpack to carry around his laptop and textbooks.

There's no way for families to avoid back-to-school shopping. Unfortunately, $696 is a lot of money for a school district such as Joplin, where all but one elementary school has a percentage of children eligible for free or reduced-rate lunches higher than 50%. In some schools, such as McKinley and West Central, that percentage reaches 85% to 90%, according to the school district.

And gone are the days where students could arrive at school with just a No. 2 pencil and a spiral notebook. Schoolchildren today are asked to furnish items such as headphones and cleaning supplies, and families are increasingly finding themselves in need of items such as printers and computers for their homes to support their children's educational requirements.

Now is the time for the community to offer a helping hand.

Many local school districts — including Joplin, Neosho, Miami, Oklahoma, and Pittsburg, Kansas — will hold Stuff the Bus events this weekend. Bright yellow school buses will be parked at a number of local retail stores, and you are invited to purchase school supplies and drop them off inside the buses for distribution to local schoolchildren in need.

To successfully educate our children, it takes all of us. And that means making sure that they're prepared for the school year.

Let's all do our part to ensure that our kids start off 2019-20 on the right foot.