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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 Staff

$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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Emma Smith's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

The spending is for the kids and I always get really excited when I'm at the teacher's store and I find something really cool that I can't wait to use or have the students use. The excitement quickly disipates when I see that the really cool thing that I spend so much money on is now broken after using it only once. Students do not understand that all the things in the classroom cost money, whether it's budget money or a teacher's personal money and that this money doesn't exactly grow on trees. Therefore, when I'm wondering if I should buy something or not, I also consider how long it will last and if the cost is worth it.Unfortunately, better quality means it costs more. Last year I bought 4 bottles of glue at the end of the year for a project I was doing. The secretary in charge of distributing supplies basically said she wouldn't give me any more glue, so I found a pretty good deal at Walmart. I decided to go with the bottle rather than the glue sticks in hopes that the bottle would last longer...well, they lasted a whole day rather than half a day. I felt like I had thrown $5 in the trash.

Karesa Watkins's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I feel that teachers should not have to spend their money on supplies or materials for their classrooms. This is something I feel the school system should provide for teachers. When I first started teaching I received what is called a smart card, where I was able to use it to buy supplies and materials. After that first year I did not receive any monetary assistance. Our school does have a business that donated various items to us each year which helps out tremendously. If teachers have to spend their owne money I feel that it should be for snacks or the extra things that they feel they need for their class. To hear of teachers spending $100-$200 on paper and pencils is outrageous to me.

Walden University
Special Education 3-5

Lisa and Dave Zychowicz's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My name is Lisa Adamo-Zychowicz. I am in a master program at Walden University. I teach for school district of Philadelphia. I am a first grade teacher. I have been teaching for fourteen years. The amound of money we spend as teachers is unbelieveable. We get a $250.00 stipen for the money we spend. This is a drop in the bucket. I try to get alot of my supplies for the upcoming school year in the summer when stores have crayons for 20cents, glue for 25 cents, copybooks for 50 cents, and folders for 10 cents. I also go to Beckers teacher store and look in their sale section if I see something such as border or charts I try to buy them. I wish someone would recognize how much money we spend and what we do for our students and increase the stipen or give us something. If anyone has any suggestions please let us know. Lisa

Dolores Quagliato's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My name is Dolores and I am a student at Walden University. I currently teach kindergarten. I have found that I regularly make many purchases for my class out of pocket. This year is especially difficult because of the financial climate.
At the beginning of each school year we provide parents with a list of student supplies. Most parents provide the supplies. This year even fewer did. In order for all of my students to have simple items such as scissors, glue and pencils I had to buy them. Over the course of the school year I also spend out of pocket money on many other things also. I spend well over $50.00.
Fortunately, some of my parents are able and do contribute more for the class so all the students can have materials. I have even seen parents buy two sets just so another student will have access to what they need. Some parents also provide time since they may not be able to help otherwise. I am thankful for the caring and giving nature of people. As long as I teach I am sure that I will continue to find parents and others so giving of themselves. I plan to continue to contribute also.

Beth Hackenberg's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My name is Beth and I am a first grade teacher in PA. I can't even begin to tell you how much money I spend in a year for my classroom. Each teacher in my school receives $150 from our PTO, which is amazing, but it is gone in about two weeks when planning activities for a classroom. We are also provided with supplies such as crayons, glue sticks, pencils, ect. but money is still spilling out of my pockets to purchase things for my classroom for enjouable learning.

Beth Hackenberg
Walden University
First Grade, PA

Jackie Luplow's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am continuously spending my own money to purchase items for my classroom and my students. It ranges from $300 to $800 every year. My husband insists that I keep the reciepts for tax purposes. I want my students to have what they need when they need it. I don't want to wait for the district to send it to my school.
Supplies are in short supply, thanks to the down turn in the economy. Yes, it bothers me to be buying things for students who wear the latest fads, have the latest video games, and whose parents drive expensive cars. These same students get free or reduced lunch. I still can not bring myself to blame the child when the parent can not handle their money or responsibilities.
I want to teach. I need to have the students prepared to learn. I will move heaven and Earth, plus spend my hard earned money, to make sure that happens.

Diane Devereaux's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

While I wholeheartedly agree with your stand not to spend your own money on supplies, it is difficult to "make do" with what the district provides. You are right. If your classroom appears to function and even thrive on less money from the district each year, where is the incentive for the district to raise your budget? I teach high school foods classes and our dept. has gotten very creative with halfing recipes and substituting/eliminating ingedients. From the outside, it appears that the courses are providing a quality culinary experience but I know how much more could be possible with greater financial support. With all the focus going towards raising math and reading scores, we are now focusing part of each lesson towards this end. I fear that sometime "the powers that be" may not see the valuable life skills (communication, collaboration, time managemant, along eith reading and math)that we teach in Family and Consumer Sciences.
Diane Devereaux, FCS teacher AGHS
Walden University Masters student

Shirley Pletcher's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My name is Shirley Pletcher,and I'm a special education teacher at Marion-Walker Elementary School located in Bellefonte, PA. I don't think your system seems cruel at all. I do a similar thing. I have a token economy system of sorts wherein my learning support students earn monopoly-like money for completing homework;earning passing grades on all tests in their homerooms and mine; following classroom and school rules;and being an active participant in their homeroom environment. The students then use the "money" to shop once per every six-day cycle at my classroom store. In addition to appealing items which they have requsted that I stock, I also stock classroom supplies. Those students who just can't seem to stay organized and chronically lose things, they must use their "money" to but the needed supplies from me. I have mangaged to get the students' families and homeroom teachers to buy in to the system, so it really has become very effective!
With the exception of some monies from PTA, I stock the store myself. The $1Tree store loves me, as well!!

Shirley Pletcher's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you for the suggestion! I plan to check it out. I'll get back to you, and let you know how I make out!
This is great news!

Kristen DeSarle's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have spent so much of my own money over the years I have been teaching. It is really the only profession that I have heard of that spends their own money on the things that they need. I have learned to cut costs over the years, especially in the area of rewards. I use to have a huge prize basket that I would spend a fortune on but now I go to the dollar store or visit the dollar bins at target(what a great place!). I also use lunch with the teacher, computer time, and homework passes. I like to reward my students but I also like to spend money and my family and lets face it; we don't make enough to do both!
My school does provide most supplies but the parents are asked to donate classroom materials such as pencils, tissue, and sanitizer. What really upsets me is the parents that don't donate anything all year but thier child has the newest game or toy! Well, I know I'll keep supplying the things I want and need in my room; whay other choice do I have?

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