According to the Department of Education, over 93 percent of educators report paying for their own school supplies. The average amount spent? $479! Many teachers feel that amount is far too high, and they’ve had enough. Here are the reasons why teachers are not spending any of their own money on their classrooms this year.
1. “I don’t get paid for that.”
Many items we purchase for work are expected to come out of our own pockets. We spend our own money on clothing, transportation, union dues, etc. But outfitting our classrooms isn’t the same as outfitting ourselves. If our districts want our classrooms and our students to have every item they need, the district should be funding that, not the teachers.
2. “It doesn’t solve the problem.”
We know that underfunded schools are a major problem. But we also know that supplementing the lack of funding with our own money doesn’t solve the problem. In fact, it makes it worse! Many teachers feel that we are hiding the problem by buying our supplies. If our communities do not realize how much teachers have been providing, they will never know the true scale of the school funding challenge.
3. “It’s not fair to the students.”
After reading a post in a back-to-school subreddit from a first-year teacher who had spent $15,000 (yes, that’s 15 with three zeroes after it!) on her new classroom, many teachers jumped in to comment. Some were just shocked at how much this young teacher had spent. Others, however, were concerned about the students in her school who weren’t going to be in her classroom. “No other teacher will be spending like that, so your classroom is going to look drastically different from the others,” one poster commented. “What child is going to feel appreciated in a sparsely decorated room when your room is across the hall?” While it’s nice to have the “cool classroom,” we should consider the message it might send to students.
4. “We need to remember our neurodivergent students.”
As we learn more about the way children learn, the more we are discovering that overly busy and colorful classrooms often aren’t providing the best environment for learning, especially for our neurodivergent learners. We don’t need to spend our money on bright, colorful posters or fuzzy furniture to provide a safe, engaging space. Instead, we should focus on what we know works and doesn’t cost us a dime. Things like collaborative work opportunities, good lighting and temperature, and places to display student work are proven to be beneficial and are free.
5. “The tax deduction isn’t enough.”
Although some teachers use the $250 tax deduction as a reason to support spending their own money in their classrooms, many feel it just isn’t enough. “I know I’ll spend more than that if I start spending at all!” Jessica A. commented. “Better to just keep my wallet shut. The tax deduction isn’t worth it!“
6. “With planning, I can get by with what I already have.”
This one might not apply to brand-new teachers, but many experienced educators have learned that by purchasing a few high-quality, reusable items, they don’t have to buy things like bulletin board paper, borders, etc. year after year. “We all end up buying our own stuff as teachers, it’s inevitable,” a 10-year teaching veteran commented, “but if you’re smart and buy just what you need and make it last, you don’t need to buy new stuff every year.”
7. “I can recycle old supplies.”
While the “Pinterest-perfect” classrooms are lovely, many money-savvy teachers are looking instead to the supplies that weren’t used the year before. “The custodians in my building know to bring me all the pencils, notebooks, and other useable stuff they find in the lockers during the summer,” Angie S. said. “I can often supply my entire class for at least the first half of the school year just one what students left behind at the end of last year!”