Most Teachers Supply Classrooms Out of Their Own Pockets

Politico reports nearly all U.S. teachers spent their own money on classroom supplies without reimbursement, doling out $479 on average in the 2014-2015 school year, according to a new analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics released Tuesday.

Overall, 94 percent of teachers used money from their own pockets to stock their classrooms with supplies like paper, pencils and more. While 44 percent spent $250 or less, more than a third spent between $251 to $500. Seven percent spent more than $1,000 on their classrooms.

The findings come following mass teacher protests across the country over low pay and inadequate school funding, and with North Carolina teachers expected to be the next to “rally for respect” with a work stoppage on Wednesday. The average public school teacher salary in the U.S. was $59,660 in the 2016-2017 school year, according to an analysis by the National Education Association.

The report also sheds light on the spending disparity for teachers serving poorer communities. Inside schools serving large shares of low-income students, higher percentages of teachers are using their own money to stock their classrooms — and are spending more on average to do so.

At schools serving 75 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced price lunch through a federal program — often used as a proxy for poverty in schools — 95 percent of teachers spent personal funds on classroom supplies. On average, these teachers spent $554 to $75 above the national average.

Eighteen percent of these teachers spent upwards of $751 on average on supplies, a higher share than at schools serving fewer students participating in the free or reduced price lunch program or not participating at all. Nine percent spent more than $1,001.

In schools that did not participate in the federal free or reduced-price lunch program, 86 percent of teachers spent money on their classrooms — $404 on average.

The NCES report also found that a greater share of teachers at traditional public schools spend their own money on classroom supplies, compared to teachers working at charter schools — 94 to 88 percent.

Elementary school teachers were also more likely to spend money out of their pockets on their classrooms, compared to secondary school teachers — 95 to 93 percent.

The analysis is based on responses from a teacher questionnaire administered as part of the 2015-2016 National Teacher and Principal Survey, a nationally representative survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau on behalf of NCES — an arm of the Education Department.

The Republican tax reform bill, H.R. 1 (115), signed at the end of last year kept in place a $250 deduction for teachers meant to offset what educators personally spend on classrooms supplies. The Senate plan sought to double the deduction, while House Republicans sought to ax it.