A recent Economic Policy Institute study found teachers on average spend at least $459 out of their own pockets each year to outfit their classrooms. It found Georgia teachers spend slightly less, $428. Teachers in California have the highest annual average, $664 a year. Only 4.9% of teachers don’t spend any of their own money on school supplies.
The recent EPI findings align with a federal Department of Education survey released last year that showed 94% of public school teachers said they paid for school supplies out of their own pockets. On average, teachers spent $479 , but 7% said their school shopping lists topped a thousand dollars, according to data culled from the 2015-16 National Teacher and Principal Survey.
The practice of teachers buying school supplies was more common in low-income schools, and those teachers shelled out more. Teachers in schools where three out of four students qualified for free and reduced-price lunches invested $554 in their classrooms, compared to $434 at affluent schools with few low-income students.
Elementary teachers were the biggest spenders, averaging $526 on their kids and classrooms. While parents are likely grateful that teachers stock extra pencils for their kids and volunteer at school carnivals, their gratitude may not be sufficient reward for the time and money that teachers sacrifice.
Many parents have come to expect their young children will come home from school in the next two weeks with a holiday craft, a handmade reindeer ornament for the tree or a winter-themed photo frame for Nana. What they don’t realize is that some teachers are paying for the pipe cleaners, glitter and buttons for those special projects.