Back-to-School Economic Blues

Higher meal prices, fewer field trips, and longer walks to school.

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In July, U.S. News reported that soaring food and energy prices were forcing school districts to adopt drastic cost-saving measures this fall. Nationwide, districts are expected to raise the price of a student meal by an average of 32 cents, and a handful of districts were considering switching to a shorter school week. That will all happen—only on a much larger scale.

After our report, the American Association of School Administrators announced that in a survey of 546 school districts, all but four said they were feeling the pinch of rising costs. To cope with these, district superintendents said they planned to adopt one or several of these measures: cutting back on student field trips (240 districts), scaling back use of heating and air conditioning (202 districts), consolidating bus routes (189 districts), eliminating bus stops close to school sites (82 districts), delaying repairs (157 districts), and eliminating or modifying teaching positions (157 districts). Only 14 school districts said they are switching to a four-day school week this fall. But an additional 82 said they are considering the idea. The responses came from superintendents from every state except Delaware and Hawaii, and the District of Columbia. Sixty-one percent of them reported they work in rural districts, 27 percent in suburban districts, and 7 percent in urban districts.

For families of students getting ready to return to school, the start of classes will certainly pose some unpleasant challenges. Here's a big-picture look at how families and schools across the country are coping with these hard times. And let us know what, if any, changes are in store for your family this new school year.

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