The cost of a 'free' education

LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Miss. (WTOK) - Students are back in class this week, and many parents are out trying to make sure they have everything they need for school.

But those school supply lists are long! Newscenter 11 wanted to find out just how much your child's "free" education really costs, so we went to Dollar General with a Lauderdale County school supply list and a Meridian school supply list.

Dollar General employees say there are a lot of less expensive options if you're not looking to break the bank.

"We have cheap options," Dollar General manager Alician Thomas says. "The Dollar General brand is the better option if you're on a budget."

Assistant manager Kina McGill points out the school supply aisle.

"Basically, everything over here is like $1, no more than $2. It's a reasonable price for people who can't too much afford it. But they can come here and we've got them," she says.

We picked the lists at random, starting with a West Lauderdale 8th grade supply list. The total came out to $43.39, not including a TI 3IIS calculator or a $10 lab fee.

Then, we moved on to the Meridian Public Schools' list, which is the same list for 6th, 7th and 8th graders in the district.

The total for Meridian students was $46.33. That is not including uniforms or art supplies for the art students.

These numbers don't include the items we couldn't pick up at Dollar General. The figures also do not include things that aren't on the list but many students will need - like backpacks, school lunches, club fees, field trip costs and athletic gear.

The 2018 Huntington Backpack Index estimates parents are spending $636.96 for elementary students, $941.18 for middle school students and $1,354.57 for high school students.

The good news? These costs are actually on the decline from the previous year. The study shows an estimated 4 percent cost reduction for elementary supplies, 6 percent for middle school and 9 percent for high school.

Remember to thank your teacher because many supplies are bought out of teachers' own paychecks. A survey done by the National Center for Education Statistics finds 94 percent of public school teachers have spent some of their own money on school supplies.

Right now, Dollar General has a teacher appreciation sale going on at all their stores. Teachers looking to buy supplies can get a 20 percent discount if they bring in their teacher ID. The store also has a $5 off of $15 (pre-tax) DG Digital coupon on select school supplies that can help teachers and parents.