In a groundbreaking new study titled "The Economy's Impact on Back to School," GreatSchools and Harris Interactive find that parents, worried about the economy and education cutbacks, are planning to pitch in with greater volunteerism and shop smarter for school supplies. Many are also reconsidering what type of school their kids should attend.
The Economy's Impact on Back to School
Key findings from the report
1. Planned parent volunteerism at school is up 20%
In the context of current economic challenges, nearly two in three parents (64%) believe it is more important for them to volunteer at school now than before. A majority of parents (53%) plan to volunteer at their children's schools this year versus 44% last year — an increase of 20%. This trend is most pronounced among African American parents, 60% of whom plan to volunteer (up from 23% who say they volunteered last year).
Despite their strong interest in volunteering, however, parents may still remain an untapped resource. According to the report, nearly half (49%) list the lack of opportunities offered by teachers or schools among the main challenges they face to being more involved in their children's education.
A majority of parents agree that it's more important to volunteer at school, but they may not know how best to help.
2. Parents are concerned about school cutbacks, and some are rethinking school choices
More than three in five parents (61%) believe the quality of education will suffer because of school cutbacks. Regardless of whether their children now attend public or private school, nearly one in four parents (24%) are rethinking the type of school their children should attend going forward. This trend is most prominent among lower-income urban and suburban parents.
Lack of education confidence and parents rethinking their children's school options are part of the backdrop of a challenging economic environment.
Buy school supplies
Adjust kids' sleep schedule
Find out which subjects kids will be learning
Have them start reading more
Reduce TV and video game time
3. Wake-up call to parents: Preparing for back to school involves more than shopping
Parents' best intentions do not always translate into best practices. Three-quarters or more make logistical plans — 93% plan to shop for school supplies — but fewer than half focus on academics or reducing distractions for their children. Only 47% find out which subjects their children will be learning, 39% have their kids start reading more often, and 33% cut down on TV and video games. Parents of older kids, as well as black and urban parents, say they do more of these preparatory activities before the first day of school.
Only one in three parents reduces the amount of TV or video game time before the first day of school.
Reuse portions of last year's school supplies
Delay buying supplies until after school starts
Set a strict budget and stick to it
Using the Web to find special offers
4. Parents are planning to shop smart
Most parents (74%) expect their economic situation to worsen or stay the same in the next six months. As a result, nearly 9 in 10 parents (88%) plan to take cost-saving steps when shopping for school supplies, including reusing old supplies and delaying purchases until after school starts to only buy necessities.
Nearly three in five parents plan to reuse last year's supplies or find cheaper ways to buy new ones.