In this July 27, 2022, shoppers look for school supplies deals at a Target store in South Miami, Florida. Credit: Marta Lavandier / AP

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As families in Maine and across the country are back-to-school shopping, we don’t need a calculator to see that school supply costs are adding up and straining budgets.

According to the retail analytics firm DataWeave, a basket of approximately 12 school supply items is averaging an almost 15 percent price increase, compared with last year, as reported by the Associated Press. As just one example, the cost of backpacks is up almost 12 percent.

That impacts families, and the organizations and teachers who also work to make sure students have the supplies they need to learn.

“I went shopping with some donated funds and could not believe the prices of backpacks,” Penquis Communications Manager Renae Muscatel told News Center Maine recently. “I’ve been doing this for 13 years, and this was the highest jump in prices I have seen. I actually experienced some sticker shock.”

This sticker shock has made the generosity of Mainers like 11-year-old Ava Burke even more important. Burke has for several years donated backpacks as part of Penquis’ efforts to help kids prepare for school. This year, Burke donated more than 200 backpacks (she requests them for her birthday, rather than gifts for herself).

“Ava’s donation means so much to us,” Muscatel told the TV station. “Here at Penquis, we know that getting kids back to school and giving them the tools that they need is important. When you see a young child that recognizes that need when she goes to school, and she sees her other peers not having what they need and she wants to help, that just means so much to us.”

In Old Town, the Courageous Steps Project recently hosted its ninth annual back to school drive.

“Given the times in our economy, many families have a hard time getting those supplies they need,” the group’s founder, Connor Archer, told News Center.

This generosity is great. Other Maine people with the means should consider donating to these types of efforts, or keep an eye out for local teachers who compile lists of their classroom needs that people can help buy supplies to fill. Even several years ago, well before the current wave of record inflation, teachers across the country were spending an average of almost $500 of their own money on classroom supplies.

In Levant, kindergarten teacher Katrice Hinton told News Center that she creates an Amazon wish list that saves her more than $150 each year when people help purchase supplies for her classroom.

“It makes the beginning of the school year and the school year itself a little bit easier,” Hinton said. “It warms my heart to see that people are giving not only to me but kiddos they don’t even know.”

Again, we love to see this generosity. But policy solutions, not just generosity, are needed to help families and others.

We’re not convinced the Inflation Reduction Act, despite its title and hype, will address this particular inflationary pressure on families (we’d love to be wrong about that), and it certainly won’t do so now as students return to school. However, it does seem to us that reinstating the enhanced child tax credit could provide more direct and immediate help in this regard. The enhanced credit made a meaningful difference for families last year, before Congress allowed it to expire.

In the meantime, helping to ensure students and teachers have what they need when classes start is a big help.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...