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Union President Not Surprised by Research Finding that Teachers Spend Their Own Money Buying School Supplies

June 1, 2018

On May 15, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told reporters that she was not surprised by the findings of a new National Center for Education Statistics report showing teachers spend an average of $479 a year on school supplies out of their own pockets.

Weingarten said “Teachers go into the profession because they care deeply about kids’ learning and well-being. When their classrooms lack basic supplies like chalk, tissues and textbooks, and when kids’ families are struggling to provide necessities, the immediate solution is for teachers to buy these things themselves. It’s telling that teachers spent the most-some spent well over $1,000-in poverty-stricken schools where kids are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. That is why, years ago in New York City, we started Teachers Choice as a way for the New York City Council to help defray the amounts educators spent on their students’ classroom needs. And it’s why we established the AFT First Book partnership to deliver over 5 million books to kids. Another way to mitigate the cost is the federal tax deduction for supplies, although the $250 deduction only really means teachers save between $30 and $60. And even that measure was under attack by Republicans in Congress before teachers mobilized to save it.”

She continued, “Educators want to help children; that is why, as long as their students lack the essentials, educators will continue to dig deep, while fighting the defunding and underinvestment that created this crisis in the first place. There is no other job I know of where the workers subsidize what should be a cost borne by an employer as a necessary ingredient of the job. But that is who teachers are, and that is why it shouldn’t take nationwide educator walkouts to address the lack of investment in schools.”

According to the report:

Public school teachers were asked how much of their own money, if any, they spent on classroom supplies without reimbursement during the 2014-15 school year. Overall, 94 percent of teachers spent any money on classroom supplies .

A higher percentage of teachers in traditional public schools (94 percent) spent their own money on classroom supplies than teachers in public charter schools (88 percent).

A higher percentage of teachers of elementary grade levels (95 percent) spent their own money on classroom supplies than teachers of secondary grades (93 percent).

A lower percentage of teachers at schools that did not participate in the free or reduced-price school lunch program (86 percent) spent their own money on classroom supplies than teachers at schools in which 0-34 percent, 35-49 percent, 50-74 percent, or 75 percent or more of students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (94, 94, 94, and 95 percent, respectively).

The two-page report is available at the link below:

Sources: American Federation of Teachers, National Center for Educational Statistics

A Total School Solutions publication.