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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

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

Edutopia readers weigh in on their favorites.
By Edutopia
Edutopia Team

$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


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?"


2007 Readers' Survey Index

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Kourtney White's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hello everyone! I am also a graduate student at Walden University. As of August 10th, I will be a fourth year teacher, yeah me! I finally made it out of the new teacher category. This is by far my favorite blog yet. It really feels good to know that I'm not the only educator who spends personal money on the classroom. Lets see... how much money do I spend out of pocket each year? To be honest I stopped counting a long time ago. I use to count on parents for additional financial support, but I soon learned that it was more trouble than it was actually worth. Being aware of my students' economical background, makes me dig deeper every year. I buy it all, not just "normal" school supplies. In addition to pencils and paper, I buy socks, clothes, shoes and celebration supplies. When I notice a child is wearing shoes that are way too little and the parent isn't responsive to the situation, I respond. When a child comes to school in the winter without a coat, I respond. My heart really goes out to the children, I just help them whenever I can. The smiles the children give me when they receive something they really need is priceless and makes it all worth it each year. My family even donates supplies and money to my classroom, because they too observed that every little bit makes a difference.

(Teacher in Memphis)

Kelly's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have only taught for one year, 2007-2008 school year. I taught special education preschool. I spent so much of my own money on my classroom. I also shopped at the dollar store and the dollar section at target. I loved that the dollar store had a section for teachers and many other materials that I could purchase for my classroom that did not cost an arm and a leg. I tried to find the best deal that I could on what I needed for my classroom. Obviously, that was not always the case and I ended up spending more than I thought. I probably would have been able to be reimbursed for all of it, but since I was a new teacher, I was thinking that if I purchased it, I would be able to keep it and take it with me to my next position so I would not be stuck in the same position again of having to start all over. I know my next position will more than likely not be in special education preschool, so I'm going to have to spend a ton of money again, but I know that one day it will hopefully slow down because I will be able to build up my collection.

Also, with the supply list I sent out a list of additional supplies that the parents could donate if they would like to. i also mentioned that we could use them year round if they wanted to donate later in the year. I was pretty lucky with my parents and they donated quite a bit. I know I may not always be as lucky as I was, but I will continue to add an additional donation list with the supply list and with various newsletters throughout the year. It never hurts to ask.

I do have to say it was very helpful hearing what everyone else does to get supplies for their classroom. I will remember these and use them when I get my own classroom again! Every little bit helps!

Brandi Jones's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am currently one half day away from finishing my first full year as a certified teacher in a small school district. I am also a graduate student at Walden University. At the beginning of the school year each teacher was give $275 to spend throughout the school year on anything that would be used in the classroom. Needless to say, that money didn't last long because I was just starting out and wanted to do so many things.
I teach an elementary school science lab so I really had know clue as to what I really needed to buy! There is a big lab prep room in the back of my classroom full of science kits but I was unaware of all the things that were inside of those kits! This caused me to spend a lot of money on materials that I would later discover were in that prep room! I did, however, become a fan of the Dollar Tree and Oriental Trading! The Dollar Tree is what I call a "Teacher friendly" store because they have supplies, prizes and even a section specifically for teachers. I go in there at least once or twice a week for items. Oriental Trading allows you to buy things for your students in bulk such as rewards, treats, pencils and other novelties at a reasonable price. I bought a lot of things out of there to decorate my lab with bright colors since I have elementary school students.

With the budget cuts that are taking place in our education department, a lot of things are being taken away from our students everyday so I try to reward them myelf every chance that I get. Now that I have one full year under my belt, I know what things I need to buy and hopefully I can save myself a few pennies!!

A. Lonon's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have been teaching for five years and still spend money on supplies each year. I spent more money my first two years than I do now. My school supplies us with many resources but there is always so much more needed in the classroom. Each year the amount of supplies my students bring are less and I have to buy the rest out of my money. I think teachers should get bigger tax breaks with the amount of money we spend especially with the budget cuts now.

Nicole White 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I too am a Walden University graduate student. This is my first time bolgging and this could become very addicting. I teach in SC and we get 250 dollars from the state each year that has to be spend in the classroom, which is a HUGE help, but we always spend out of pocket as well. I hope with budget cuts that we still get this money next year, but we shall see.

Jessica's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am also a walden student and I am finishing up my 3rd year teaching first grade. I love to spend money on my family and my students. That is, until I had a baby. My priorities have changed a lot. I do not spend as much in the classroom anymore. I used to buy frilly things to go in my classroom and I have learned they are not needed to teach. I use to buy paper folders for the children and I wound up spending more money on them combined than I would for one plastic folder for the whole year. I have cut back a lot and learned to shop wisely not cheaply. I am a frequent visitor of SAMS club and other wholesale places. With all the budget cuts I have learned to ask parents for simple things I never thought to ask for, like more erasers or disinfectant. I just always bought things like that and suprisingly parents donated. I will continue to ask for more, all they can do is say no.

Jessica's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am happy for you that you are finishing up your 1st year teaching. Our district also give us money at the beginning and it never goes far. I rememeber my first year I bought so many thing I did not need. Oh well, we live and learn. I also love the dollar tree. I used to buy little toys for rewards and I learned that they will do anyting for a piece of candy(M&M or sweet tart). It is much cheaper and you can eat it too!!

miranda morrison's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I hate to break it to you but our "Sonny" money was not included in the budget that passed in April. The good news is that we will not have furlough days that are mandatory. I am lucky to be in Forsyth County. While the existing schools are all cutting the budgets, I am opening a new school and we were given 300.00. I truly don't know what to do with all that money yet!!! I know it is not a ton but changing schools and having to leave so many good resources there it is nice to have a decent amount. Especially since we will not get our Sonny money. Fellow Georgia teachers lets just hang in there. It can't be like this forever!!!!

Angela Jenkins's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am new to blogging so this is all new to me but I could see how I could get addicted. I am a graduate student at Walden University and I am just finishing up my first year as a teacher. Whew! I made it. I spent about $500 on supplies and books for my classroom this year. Our district gave us $200 to spend, which was nice, but I walked into an empty classroom. I didn't even have a pencil sharpener. So a lot of that money went towards stocking my classroom. I had to spend so much out of my own pocket. The first couple of months were so hard to save money because I felt like everything that came in just went right back out.

Angela Jenkins
2nd Grade Teacher- Washington State
Walden University

N. Goodwyn's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Teachers are in a unique profession that has to purchase additional supplies necessary to do our jobs and not get reimbursed. For example, some other professions take advantage of getting reimbursed for gas usage, given a credit card with a maximum to use each month, or are provided with some type of reimbursement on a regular basis. I feel teachers should be provided with 2-3 thousand dollars per year to spend, maybe on a debit type of card. They must show receipts monthly totaling the amount spent on supplies.

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