Back to school breaks the bank
THE best things in life might be free, but education isn't one of them.
The school year will get underway next week and Bundaberg parents have been busy throwing rulers, pencils and backpacks into shopping carts in anticipation.
But the process has left a sour taste in the mouths of some, who say the cost of sending their children to school is becoming exorbitant.
Single mum Charmaine Jorgensen is one of them, with three school-aged children to shop and buy uniforms for.
Ms Jorgensen's daughter Chloe will begin Year 2 this year, while her son Kieran is off to Year 7 and eldest daughter Kayla starts Year 8.
Already she has forked out $360 on text books for the two high schoolers, which is an amount subsidised by the government and covers the loan of the books over a 12-month period, at which time they have to be handed back.
Then there's the uniforms.
Beginning high school, Kieran needed all new uniforms including two pairs each of formal shirts and shorts and a sports uniform.
"It's not cheap, you're paying $38 for one shirt,” she said.
Shoes, it seems, are another sticking point.
Some local schools require students to wear black leather shoes, even for sport, which Ms Jorgensen said has forced her to purchase more expensive shoes in the hopes they will serve a dual purpose. The cost, however, will be worth it when compared to last year where she handed out money for no fewer than three pairs of shoes for her daughter.
But Ms Jorgensen knows she has some sort of a reprieve for at least another year, when the prospect of laptops come into the picture.
"By the time I pay my rent and the other bills, I'm not left with much,” she said.
"And because they're growing, it just goes on and on.”
In total Ms Jorgensen estimates she has spent close to $900 and it will unlikely stop there with sports carnivals and day trips throughout the year.
"Then on top of that you've got the excursions,” she said.
"I think the expectation for what kids need has gone up.”
As if to pinpoint the apparent lunacy of it all, Ms Jorgensen said one school list asked her to purchase not one but two boxes of HP lead pencils at a cost of $23 a box.
"I went and bought five lead pencils, I think that's ridiculous,” she said.
The real problem however, she says, is the pressure this places on parents who don't want to disappoint their children or single them out for bullying.
"They don't want other kids to make fun of them, or think they are poor,” she said.
"It's putting a lot of pressure not only on the students, but on the parents too.
"I couldn't really afford that money for text books but my son would have been devastated.”
She laments the government's decision to abolish the Schoolkids Bonus.
"That bonus helped out so much. It's such a shame that people took that for granted and wrecked it for everyone,” she said.