If a kid who is already struggling with the effects of poverty and is behind academically is confronted with paying such high costs for school supplies and mandatory fees, that might make dropping out more likely. “We work closely with and in public schools and see that many students cannot afford a backpack or the list of supplies they need to learn," Communities in Schools President Dan Cardinali said in a statement about the Backpack Index.

The nonprofit, which works to combat the dropout rate, is just one organization that holds school supply drives to help eliminate that hurdle for struggling students. "While teachers and many school districts do what they can to help students obtain supplies, we need to do more," said Cardinali.

Communities in Schools affiliates hope to collect enough supplies to meet the needs of 1.5 million public school students. But unless states get serious about funding public education, the problem of districts passing costs on to parents in the form mandatory fees doesn't seem likely to disappear anytime soon.