Inflation is straining school budgets across the country, as districts are forced to pay more for everything from school supplies in the classroom to maintaining the bus fleets picking up kids. This year could pose another tough year for students, families and school employees.
"It’s not just an inflation issue, it’s a supply chain issue, and a worker issue, that we’re experiencing," Oroville Union High School District Superintendent Corey Willenberg said.
The Oroville Union High School District has more than 2,000 students and a budget of nearly $40 million, according to Willenberg. The budget is being chewed away at by the rising inflation rates.
Willenberg said the most challenging part of the budget to balance is the food services and generally the district will run over budget in this area. He says the staff members find ways to make it work. This year, could pose new issues with higher inflation rates for everything from vegetables, chicken, milk, and supply chain shortages.
Food prices are up almost 11% this year compared to just this time last year, while milk prices have increased almost 16%.
But it's not just lunchtime that's getting more expensive for schools. Factor in sporting goods for gym class, which are up 5.2%, musical instruments for band class are up 5.9%, education books and supplies have gone up 3.1% and stationery items, like paper and pencils, have gone up 11%, and balancing this year's budget could be challenging.
As for energy, prices rose 41.6% over the last year, the largest yearly increase since April 1980.
On the other hand, prices for things like computers and calculators have gone down in price over the past year.
Willenberg said the district has had trouble getting things like textbooks and smart boards because of shipping delays. To help save on costs, he says the district has shifted to using more online digital versions of textbooks, which are a cheaper alternative.
"Our community support has been a big factor, other schools contributing, realizing how important these programs are, car clubs, people donating money," Automotive Instructor Daniel Briggs said.
Briggs teaches students automotive tech and metal work, and he said prices have gone up for supplies in both classes.
Schools are also still struggling to find qualified teachers for vacant positions and certified bus drivers before the school year begins.
Willenberg said finding teachers to come to a rural district is challenging, especially when the pay is competitive with surrounding areas. "We are all struggling recruiting teachers, even the bigger districts," he explained.
Higher costs of living and gas prices, Willenberg said, could be part of the reason why it is becoming a challenge to recruit to rural towns. "It’s a challenge to get people who want to work in a small area with housing costs, gasoline costs, or even get into the teaching profession."