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With shrinking budgets, schools look to families to fill supply gap

Back to school means it's time to shop for new school supplies
Schools ask parents to help pay for class supplies 03:17

Shopping for school supplies has become an annual tradition for Shacora Wright, with her son starting fourth grade in just a few weeks.

"They would request hand sanitizers and Lysol wipes...They want at least two jugs," Wright said.

As a parent, she's frustrated by the supply list.

"I'm not frustrated over pencils. Of course he needs pencils, he needs folders, he need books, crayons, things that make sense, not household items that should basically already be supplied there for them. That is a bit much," Wright said.

This year, first-graders at an elementary school in Moody, Alabama, are required to bring items including Kleenex, hand soap, Clorox wipes, baby wipes, paper towels, Ziploc bags, trash bags and hand sanitizer. That's in addition to four boxes of crayons and one bottle of board cleaner.

According to the National Retail Federation, spending on back-to-school supplies has grown on average 42 percent since 2005. Parents pay an average of about $580 per year for a child in elementary school, about $100 more per year for middle school or junior high students.

"What we saw in the last decade, especially the last five or six years, are some very large cuts to the education budgets. And what schools have been doing is cutting back on everything they possibly can ... and someone's got to take care of that," said Michael Griffith, senior policy adviser at the Education Commission of the States.

And it's not just parents. One study shows elementary and high school teachers spend an average of about $500 on supplies annually.

In a statement to CBS News, the American Federation of Teachers said: "Teachers...have taken it upon themselves to do everything in their power to help their kids, including digging deep into their pockets for's time that teachers get the tools they need..."

Michael Walrond is senior pastor at First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem with about 10,000 congregation members. His ministry has been running a backpack drive for four years. Last year, they gave out over 500 backpacks. This year, he said it may be closer to 1,000.

"I think when you think of the reality that there are so many children who are in need in this community, that it does take a village... but it also takes a community to make a vision for our children as well," Walrond said.

Organizations like GoFundMe and DonorsChoose are some of a few organizations rallying private donors together to help fill classroom gaps.

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