Volume 59, Issue 2

Teachers Spend $820 Per Year of Their Own Money on Classroom Supplies

Facing teacher shortages, stagnant pay, increased workplace duties, and attacks from politicians pushing divisive agendas in schools, educators continue to cough up their own hard-earned money for their students.


$820! This is the average amount of their own money that educators will spend on supplies for their classroom this year, according to www.myelearningworld.com. In Kentucky, it is estimated that public school teachers will spend $33 million out of pocket.


Including pencils, paper, cleaning supplies, books, software and other materials, teachers will spend 37 percent more on school supplies than they did in 2015. Nationwide, that adds up to nearly $3 billion in lost income for teachers. And despite recent increases, the educator expense deduction only allows teachers to deduct up to $300 of out-of-pocket classroom expenses when filing their federal tax returns.


And while they’re spending more of their own money than ever before, teacher salaries haven’t even been keeping up with inflation over the years.

The problem has gotten so bad that many teachers across the country are turning to crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe to raise money for their classrooms, but even then, some districts are expressing concern and disapproval because they’re unable to track the spending.

Meanwhile, America is facing a “catastrophic teacher shortage“, in part because many teachers feel underappreciated, underpaid, and overworked. Undoubtedly, many teachers would point to the fact that they have to spend their own money on classroom supplies as just another sign of unfair treatment.

In a white paper released last October, the National Education Association cited that under resourced schools and the unstated expectation that educators will spend their own money on supplies and equipment are factors that drive educators away from the profession.  

Another major factor driving the educator shortage crisis is low pay, which makes the out-of-pocket spending even more outrageous.

The “teacher pay penalty” is the percentage by which public school educators are paid less than comparable workers. According to the Economic Policy Institute, this gap reached an all-time high in 2022. Teachers on average now earn 23.5 percent less than comparable college graduates.

But educators are still compelled to buy essential supplies and make their classrooms welcoming and comfortable for their students.