by Rochana Rapkins and Diana Cabral
Public schools are intended to be the great equalizer: everyone, no matter their demographics or class, is supposed to get a good education at no cost. But even public schools are not entirely free, and the costs of an education can be a strain on a low-income family. Many public schools in New York City require uniforms, which the parents usually pay for out of pocket, and each grade has a list of required or recommended supplies that students are expected to bring with them on the first day of class. (Transportation to school can also add another burden to some families’ expenses; for more on this topic, see our post here.)
One organization that attempts to relieve some of the financial pressure on families is Volunteers of America of Greater New York, which runs Operation Backpack to supply students with new backpacks and supplies each fall.
“We want the kids to start the year with everything fresh,” said Rachel Weinstein, Director of Development and Communication.
The backpacks are filled with grade-specific supplies such as watercolor paints and crayons for young students and protractors for older students. All of the backpacks also include hand wipes and tissues.
Below, we outline the typical costs the family of a fifth-grader in New York City might be expected to incur, if they had no outside assistance.