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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

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

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Candace Holder's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This is my first year in the classroom after graduating in May. I'm in fourth grade in Northwest Georgia. I'm currently pursuing my Master's Degree from Walden University. Every year through out my undergraduate degree, when Wal-Mart would put their school supplies on sale, I'd spend about 20-30 dollars so I could start a collection for myself. Every teacher I've ever known has spent money out of pocket for supplies for their students. This year, that collection has come in very handy to me. I'm still amazed at the number of students who come into school with nothing. However, I still have to do my job and in order to do that, I need the students to have the required materials. When I was doing my student teaching, the teacher I worked with would bring in socks for a student who didn't have any. I think a lot of teachers go above and beyond for their student and we are grossly underpaid. I think it is great that the government has decided to allow teachers a deduction on their taxes. I'll definately be looking into that this year, but it is only a small step in the right direction.

Amy Prescott's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hello!
My name is Amy Prescott and I am a student at Walden University. I teach 2nd grade in Florida. I also spend my own money for my classroom. I just spent $15 on books yesterday! I am blessed to work at a new school that just opened last year and supplied teachers with glue, markers, scissors, etc. But how am I supposed to encourage students to sit and enjoy a book on the tile floor without a rug, pillows, or a chair? What about books on their level to test on or read for fun? How do we reward good behavior without incentives? So yes, I stock up during the "Back to School" sales. I buy treats, prizes, and books. I've also bought posters, rugs, and pillows to liven up my classroom and reading area. Every year there is something new to buy, or something that needs to be replaced.

Kelley Thompson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My name is Kelley Thompson, and I am a graduate student at Walden University. I have been teaching fourth grade for three years in a rural school district. As like everyone else, I contribute my own money to my classroom. Luckily at my school, each grade level has a certain budget for purchasing supplies we need for the following school year. Our school does not have much money to begin with so we are very careful about what we spend. My grade level team and I spend about a week deciding what we need for our classrooms and figuring out how much everything costs in the end. This year, several supplies were not delivered to the school. No one seemed to know what happened to them. So in conclusion, I had to go out and purchase my own supplies that I did not receive in time for the new school year. I have yet to receive those supplies. No matter what, there was money wasted, whether it was mine or the schools.

There are certain things I do not mind spending money on for my students. When we create projects or design holiday crafts, I do not mind spending a little money to give my students more options in what they are creating. I do mind, however, when I have to continue to spend money on necessities in the classroom that the school should provide. Many teachers in my school have Smart Boards and projector screens in their classrooms. This is a great use of technology, but when a light bulb burns out or the Smart Board needs repaired, there is no money from the school to fix or replace it. So a very expensive machine is wasted and just sits in the classroom. Do they expect the teachers to put out hundreds of dollars to get them repaired?

Kelley Thompson

Michelle Lyons's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi! I have taught first grade for nine years in Florida. Each year I have spend a considerable amount of my personal money on supplies and such for my classroom. I figured it was because I had just started my career. However, nine years later, I have discovered that my personal spending on classroom needs never ends. I would love for my school to cover the expenses, but I will just have to settle for smiles and hugs from my students and knowing that my purchases have made their learning a better!

Michelle Lyons
Walden University
First Grade

Mike Santoro's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am currently a Walden student and my wife and I both teach. Each year we say that we are going to cut back on what we spend to do what we feel is needed for our classes, and each year we break that promise. Whether it is extra pens/pencils, or the extra reading materials to help a lesson we always feel the expence is worth it. Last year, we combine to spend a little over $1,000 on our classes.

Now most of the items purchased are things that we hold onto for the long term, but If the budgets at either school were a little larger, we would not need to spend out of pocket. I do not know of any teacher who is true dedicated that doesn't go into thier pockets at some point.

Stacey's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My name is Stacey and I am pursing a Masters Degree at Walden.I have been a fifth grade teacher for approximately 12yrs and it seems as if my spending on school supplies has just begun. I have been led to believe, that the primary stake holders in education, do not care if teachers have the proper resources in their classrooms. Yet they want positive results. I have spent so much money from my pocket trying to ensure that my students have the resources they need, but it has been costly.I really do not agree with this practice because as teachers we have our own bills to pay. This is the only profession which is undermined and taken for granted. Its very unfair to us. What's in our pockets should stay in our pockets.We have given our time, talents, skills and dedicated service in the classroom.Why should we spend our money too?

Stacey's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi I'm Stacey and I am a student at Walden.I am a fith grade teacher and I find this excessive spending on school supplies very painstaking.Teachers are being sabbotaged. As a teacher in the field for a number of years it doesn't get any better. The cost of living has gone up and so the smallest item is being taxed. We shouldn't have to spend our own money on school supplies. But, in the end when we think of our students success, it gives us a sense of pride. These additional resources really make learning more fun, and this is what we as educators are trying to facilitate.Hopefully, we will practice to spend more wisely, so that we do not end up spending too much of our money in the long run.

Shannon's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Shannon Staab Newark Delaware. I am forever replacing supplies and finding more up to date materials to teach my children with. I even baught board games for rainy days and a way to teach social skills. Pencils, oh my god pencils. I finally found a pencil dispenser and kids had to oay a quarter for a pencil. Thank god for tax breaks on teaching supplies. What do you mean it is only $250? I spend 4 times that amount. URGH!! Where is the help for teachers. Shouldn't there be a never ending supply closet that always has the materials you need? Well when the schools can't even get up to date text books I guess it is too much to ask for a little help with supplies for the students.

Connie Tartara's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

The little amount of time we have in the classroom with our students leaves us even less time to worry about who has a pencil and who doesn't. When I see a student without a pencil, or missing a folder, or no loose leaf paper, I supply it for them quickly so we can move on. I see a lot of colleagues doing the same thing. It is unfortunate that we have to spend our own money to supply students, but that is our reality. We can spend time discussing where the missing supplies are, or we can teach the standards the state has set for us. It looks the government is finally trying to make up for this, but it is only a drop in the bucket.

Jenn Farruggio's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

The amount I spend on my classroom a year is more like a two or three car payments. We are given only $100 each year, including shipping, and let me tell you it gets nothing. If you need something big, such as a pencil sharpener, that is pretty much all you are getting. I want my students to have the best so I do spend a lot of money out of my pocket.

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