Caring for and educating children is one of the most important things anyone can do. As moms, we know that these roles are often overlooked and under-appreciated by society, but another group shares our frustration: teachers. Educators are not only overlooked and under-appreciated, but also overworked and underpaid. Every year, they're left to educate our kids with minimal resources. And how much teachers spend on back-to-school each year highlights just how tragically we, as a nation, are failing our educators.
Romper spoke with a number of teachers across the country to find out how much their districts gave them for supply purchases, as well as how much they spend out of pocket in order to properly care for and educate their students. To hear that some schools give as little as absolutely nothing is disgraceful. To hear just how much teachers are willing to spend just so kids can have access to more school books or simple things like photocopies is equally enraging. But we need to hear these stories, and we need to be and stay enraged, or nothing will ever, ever change.
It's safe to say that most if not all public teachers don’t make nearly enough money. As a culture that claims to care about children and their education, we need to do better by the people we entrust with our children’s schooling. To start, we should be supporting educators when they ask for or demand raises and more funds for supplies. So with that in mind, here is just how much your child's teachers are spending for simply supplies:
“When I taught in New York City public schools, you got $200 [to spend on supplies]... or maybe it was $250. At the end of the year you had to turn in receipts.
I usually spent over $1,000. Teachers didn’t have access to a copier. You had to ask the office staff. It took days or more to get your copies back, and they were usually on legal size paper, which was a pain for the kids to take home so I did my own at Staples.”
“When I worked in Oklahoma I received $0 for supplies. When we needed class sets of calculators, we had to ask the parents for a $3 donation because we had no funds. When the copy room ran out of paper, I had to supply my own. I also had a set number of copies a month that I couldn’t go past. Once I hit that number, I had to go to a copy shop and pay for my papers. I spend about $1,000 on supplies to make sure all my students have what they need for my class... plus supplies for activity-based learning.”
“I've worked in public, charter, and private schools and have never received funds for my classroom. We could always ask for something and hope it got approved but there was never a budget set for individual classroom teachers. To set things up each year, [I spent] at least $250 on organization, supplies, storage, new books, subscriptions, etc. I spend at least $10 a paycheck, too, because there's always a new book that I want for one of my reluctant readers. All total? I spend at least $500 per year out of pocket.”
“I work in a public school district in Missouri that services special education students in the entire county by working with the other districts in the county. This district gives us a $100 budget every year before summer. We have to fill out a requisition form and everything must come from our warehouse catalog. Sometimes our administrators will find new money in our budget and let us make a wish list and they'll get us what they can afford.
My partner district, which is located in one of the poorest communities in the area, gave its teachers a $100 budget this year also — but from my understanding this is not available every year. Teachers often buy their own paper and ink. When I worked in a charter school in the city, I did not receive a budget. Everything was out of pocket other than the basic office supplies that they provided. It goes without saying that $100 does not go very far.
I spend several hundred dollars on my classroom every year, and I don't even have a traditional classroom (I teach resource). I honestly didn't keep strict count last year because I knew that I would far surpass the measly $250 deductible on my taxes. Two years ago, however, I spent about $850, and that was just for things I still had the receipt for. This year I've already spent $200 on technology.”
“[My district gives us] $200 a year. I spend around $400 or more per year. Since there are so many limits on what we can use the money they give us for, there is a lot to fill in on our own.”
“I, at a minimum, spend $1,000 on supplies for my class per year.”
“I spend about $500 a year. Public schools in Miami... most received was $250. Currently we can only purchase through a site called ‘Class Wallet.’ No choices except what is there and I believe it's down to $200.”
“This is my 19th year. Sometimes we get money and sometimes we don’t. On the years we do, it comes in our paycheck sometime around October and we have to submit receipts for it by March or write a check to reimburse the district. The amount also varies. One year it was $57 (better than nothing). Last year it was a little less than $200. I don’t know what the amount is this year yet, although I guarantee I’ve already spent hundreds more than whatever it is. Probably $800 - $1,000. I teach in a public Title One school in Florida.”
“I normally [spend] $800-$1,000 for physical or curricular supplies. [This is] mostly because I have had six different courses in three years that I needed to buy curricular materials for, and because I have multiple classrooms to stock and decorate with things like maps. I am also building classroom libraries, which is expensive and much harder to do in French than in Spanish or English. This does not count money spent on things like hotels when attending conferences. [We get] $200 at a public district in Wisconsin. I teach over 400 kids per year in my position in two different buildings (and therefore two different classrooms).”