Industry: Billions for Johnny

While the kids are still out on summer vacation, class is very much in session for the industry that supplies equipment and materials for the nation's schools. This month elementary and secondary schools will take delivery of 47% of their new supplies for the fall term, from scratchless chalk to luminous flagpole paint. During the coming year, the nation's 31,000 public school districts—not counting colleges or private schools—are expected to spend a record $1.7 billion for school equipment and supplies.

Sharing this market are 2,000 U.S. school-supply firms. They include not...

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