By Michelle Cassell
Recognizing that even temporary relief for the cost of school supplies would be in short supply after the state legislature locked the back-to-school tax-holiday bill SB 851 in committee this last session, Governor Roy Cooper launched a month-long school supply collection drive on August 1. In response, The State Employees Credit Union (SECU) and Communities in Schools of North Carolina are partnering to collect and deliver the school supplies.
Locally, Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation and Summit Church are joining together to present a Community Book Bag Giveaway for local students on Saturday, Aug. 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Hargraves Community Center, 216 Roberson St., Chapel Hill. Each child will receive a book bag and supplies while supplies last. In addition, the event will include food, kickball games, and free haircuts.
In the town of Carborro, the Roger-Eubanks Neighborhood Association (RENA) located at 101 Edgar Street is holding a school supply giveaway this Saturday, August 13 from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Retailers such as Target are also providing discounts on supplies for students and teachers. Yet, parents remain frustrated with the lack of state relief targeting something as basic as back-to-school costs at a time when their budgets are especially stressed by high inflation.
A $6 Billion Surplus and Parent Frustration
In a recent interview with WCNC, Sen. Michael Garrett (D, Dist. 27), one of the sponsors of SB 851 in this year’s session, noted that the state “could afford it,” given that the state sports a $6 billion surplus. Although the bill passed the state senate, it died from inaction after it was referred to the senate’s Committee on Rules and Operations May 27.
In 2013 the North Carolina state legislature ended the back-to-school tax holiday program as part of a tax reform package that reportedly lowered personal and corporate income taxes in North Carolina. Republican arguments stated that the tax-free weekend brought too many “tourists” to North Carolina, and the state wasn’t getting any money out of that revenue.
According to the Department of Revenue, the last time the North Carolina sales tax holiday was in effect, it cost the state about $13 million. TLR was not able to verify as of press time whether that figure accounted for the losses to retailers and corporate tax revenue to the state caused by North Carolinians crossing borders to tax holiday states to make their purchases.
For parents, however, the political and economic debates lose merit at the check-out counter.
“If I can’t make my money go farther to purchase basic school supplies for my three children, I can’t care about the corporate income tax rate,” said Julie Barnes, mother of three Carrboro elementary school students.
In an annual report released on July 14 by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights and Analytics, one-third (38%) of consumers said they are cutting back on other spending areas to cover the cost of items for the upcoming school year. Families expect to spend more per person on both K-12 and college items this year due to higher prices.
Public and Private Sectors Partnering to Provide Assistance
While many families and teachers struggle to afford school supplies and other back-to-school items, other North Carolina residents are positioned to assist if organized structures exist to make it easy to get the goods to the schools for distribution. People can donate school supplies conveniently through strategically accessible locations through August 31.
The State Employees Credit Union (SECU) and Communities in Schools of North Carolina are partnering to collect and deliver the school supplies.
“We are happy to assist with this important effort to support North Carolina teachers and students through the collection of much-needed classroom supplies,” said Jim Hayes, SECU president, and CEO. “Not only does our presence in all 100 counties make us a natural fit to serve as donation sites. The supplies drive is a great demonstration of our credit union philosophy of ‘People Helping People.’”
Donation bins will be available in all State Employees Credit Unions statewide. North Carolina residents can participate by dropping off supplies at any SECU location or organizing a drive at their workplace.
At the end of the Governor’s School Supply Drive volunteers with Communities in Schools of North Carolina and Volunteer NC and Gov. Cooper’s cabinet members will help distribute supplies to classrooms across the state.
The governor made special mention of the contributions teachers make, saying, “Our teachers work so hard, and they shouldn’t have to dip into their pockets to cover the cost of classroom supplies that their students need.”
According to state statistics, teachers in North Carolina spend over $500 of their own money on supplies for their classrooms each year.
“Imagine returning to school without the supplies you need to engage in learning,” said Jill Cox, President, and CEO of Communities in Schools of North Carolina. “Everyone can help ensure no student faces this challenge by participating in the Governor’s school supply drive and dropping off a few items, including items our teachers need like copy paper. Together, we can ensure NC students start the school year on the right foot.”
Requested school supplies include:
- paper — all types, including copy paper
- Pens and pencils
- Crayons and markers
- Dry erase markers
- USB flash drives
- Spiral notebooks
- Sanitizing wipes
In addition, other organizations in partnership with the governor’s office initiative are: TeachNC, North Carolina Business Committee for Education, the North Carolina PTA and VolunteerNC (the North Carolina Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service).
Retailers Join the Relief Effort
Retailers have also joined the efforts to make school supplies more affordable before school starts and beyond. For example, retail giant Target is assisting customers by extending its discounts on back-to-school and back-to-college purchases this year until September 10.
In a July news release, Target Corporation (NYSE: TGT) said, “We know the back-to-school season signals an important milestone for millions of families across the country — and we are here to offer many ways for guests to save in one convenient location,” said Jill Sando, executive vice president and merchandising officer of Target. Savings cited included 20 percent for college students and 15 percent for teachers.
The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA) spokesperson Ann Edmondson said, “The association is not currently maintaining a database of merchants offering back-to-school discounts. However, we continue encouraging everyone to shop in North Carolina and look at our webpage, Shop NC — NCRMA.”
Teach Thought offers a list of 90 retailers that offer teacher discounts at Teach Thought University.