Readers' Survey 2007: Amount You Spend Out of Pocket Each Year on Classroom Supplies

Edutopia readers weigh in on their favorites.

Edutopia readers weigh in on their favorites.

$500 or More

We can see those checking accounts shrinking before our very eyes! Nearly half of you told us you spend $500 or more. Shockingly, more than one in three of those heavy spenders shells out more than $1,000 a year, up to a high of $3,500. Oh, my. Responses ranged from the magnanimous ("I don't care what I spend -- the results are worth it") to the miserly ("$0 -- I refuse to pay for what I can put in the budget"). But the consistent message in response after response was simply "Way too much!"

Our Take

Payback

If you're tapping your own funds for the sake of your students, David Holmstrom, a licensed tax preparer in Brookline, Massachusetts, has advice on how to get some of that investment back from Uncle Sam. It's tough to deduct it the usual way, by itemizing purchases on Schedule A, because classroom expenses rarely outweigh the standard deduction anyone can take. "Congress therefore decided to give educators a special break not available to other employees," Holmstrom says. "They can take up to $250 as an adjustment -- that is, they can subtract it from their income -- whether or not they itemize deductions."

If you're in the 25 percent tax bracket, he says, this adjustment is worth fifty dollars to you -- not enough, surely, but something. The allowance covers out-of-pocket costs for classroom supplies and is available only to teachers, counselors, principals, and aides in private and public K-12 schools who worked at least 900 hours during the year.

Here's the catch: Congress approved the educator adjustment for this year after the tax forms were printed. So, Holmstrom explains, teachers must put the $250 on line 23 of Form 1040 (the line that says "Archer MSA deduction") and write an E on the line to indicate it's an educator expense. He adds, "Isn't the IRS great?"

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2007 Readers' Survey Index

This article originally published on 5/8/2007

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Comments (542)

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Emma Smith (not verified)

Buying supplies out of pocket

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I am also a Walden University student as well as second-year middle school Math teacher. This summer was the first I heard about the $250 deduction, so I did not take advantage of this generous gift from the IRS bacin in April. When I was buying supplies over the summer for the new school year, I would wait for all the back-to-school sales and stock up on things like glue, markers, crayons, pencils, etc.

Last year was also my first experience with spending budget money. The other teachers who I worked with on setting up our budget for 7th grade Math treated this list as a wish list. Other grade levels just wrote down the necessities. When the budget money was actually allocated, we got a fraction of what we had "wished" for months before that. So, 7th grade Math received only $2,000 of the $10,000 we hoped for. 6th grade Math received only $500 because they only budgeted for $2,000. Since the money is divided up, I only had $271 to spend on things I wanted for my classroom. Therefore, this was certainly not enough for everything I wanted, especially the small things like glue.

Teachers always spend so much of their own money out of pocket and it's because the schools don't have enough money.

...everything boils down to money from the government.

Ken Shelton (not verified)

I have long had a stance,

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I have long had a stance, done many blog postings, and encouraged my friend NOT to spend their own money for supplies. There is so much waste in our schools/districts, and many of us are grossly underpaid. Why should we be expected to spend our own hard earned money for something schools should be providing!! In most industries supplies to do your job are provided by the employer, or at least basic supplies. All this does is undermine the value of teachers and become expected. Then the money is spent elsewhere in non-critical areas because, "well you just spend your own money anyway so you have no need for money from the school."

Jeanne (not verified)

Money

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In the past years I have forked out a lot of money towards my classroom and students. This year I am trying not to spend as much. My teaching partners and I have decide to reward the kids by having them work towards a class party. Each student has to earn enough points or dollars, depending on what class they are in, to participate in the party. We pay for good behavior, turning in homework on time, class participation, and also scores. This has saved me a lot of money beacause I used to buy prizes for students to earn. The class party my consist of a movie and treats, swimming, or free time depending on how often the class reaches the goal there could be a couple of parties a year.

Sabine (not verified)

Money

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I could not agree with any of you more. I spend so much money each year for my classroom. However, I don't just spend money on my classroom, but money to maintain supplies in my classroom, as well as snacks and or prizes for my students. I clearly spend more than the tax break we get of $250.00. I try my best to get creative with what I have just so I won't have to go into debt over my profession. I know that all of you are all over the world, but I have found that Dollar stores are wonderful!

Do any of you have any creative ideas to save our pocket books a little?

Sabine
Walden University
4th Grade, Washington

Chao Lor (not verified)

I agree, if you bug them

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I agree, if you bug them enough, they will buy the school materials. I know that the majority of the parents can buy it. If they can afford their children video games, name brand cloths, and couple of trips a year; they can surely afford school materials. So I do send out a list and prices of the cheapest places to go.

Chao Lor (not verified)

I end up spending so much out

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I end up spending so much out of pocket each year for my students for the last four years. I found that the students who couldn't afford it are usually five to seven students only. The rest of my students can afford it but if you give them the option of providing it for them, they will not want to purchase it. Where I teach, many of the students are economically at the disadvantage. But if many of them can afford video games, Disneyland trips, and brand name clothes, they surely can afford the basic materials for school. So I do make a list for all the students to go out and purchase their own materials. Before I give them a list, I do go and scout the cheapest prices and give them an example of the list and prices. Most of the time, going to the 99cents store and $1 Tree Store are the best places to shop. I also go after the school sale and purchase many of the materials at a cheaper price. If students run out of materials, they can purchase it from me. They only pay what I pay for it. For example, I bought some folders for one cent, so they paid me one cent. I do have extra materials for students who can't really afford it. But I don't let them know until after the deadline. I know this may sound of cruel, but I feel that parents can spend huge amounts of money on video games and expensive trips, they can surely afford simple school materials such as pencils and color crayons.

Danielle Culberson (not verified)

Money

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Thanks IRS, but why make it so complicated? I appreciate the tax break, but what teacher only spends $250 in their classroom? I will say this year, my school has had more resources than I have had in previous schools, so I haven’t had to spend as much, but I have spent money none-the-less. At least we can claim some of it.
Danielle Culberson
Walden University
4th Grade Teacher, KS

Danielle Culberson (not verified)

Money

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Thanks IRS, but why make it so complicated? I appreciate the tax break, but what teacher only spends $250 in their classroom? I will say this year, my school has had more resources than I have had in previous schools, so I haven’t had to spend as much, but I have spent money none-the-less. At least we can claim some of it.

Danielle Culberson
Walden University
4th Grade Teacher, KS

Jessica Hawk (not verified)

Where will it come from?

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My name is Jessica Hawk. I am a Walden University student and I teach first grade. I would be scared to know how much money I spend each year on my classroom. I am continually purchasing crayons, erasers, pencils, notebooks, and markers. I keep a "stocked" treasure box along with buying graphing materials, extra snacks for those without, soap and hand sanitizer, and numerous boxes of band-aids and tissues. My question is, where will it all come from when I stop. My school system has planned a total of 7 furlough days this school year. With the tremendous pay cut, how can I afford to keep my classroom full and take care of the things that my family and I need. I wish I could depend on the parents to pick up the slack, but I know that this is wishful thinking. What is a teacher to do?

Jessica Hawk (not verified)

Where will it come from?

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My name is Jessica Hawk. I am a Walden University student and I teach first grade. I would be scared to know how much money I spend each year in my classroom. I am constantly providing pencils, crayons, and erasers. I keep a "stocked" treasure box along with purchasing materials to graph, snacks for kids that are without, and soap and hand sanitizer. My question is where will it come from when I stop? My school system has been furloughed for 3 days this year and we are expecting 4 more days next year. This will total 7 days in one school year. With all the pay cuts, I am not going to be able to afford to supply my classroom with all the needed materials. I wish that I could depend on parents to pick up the slack, but I know this will never happen. What is a teacher to do?

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