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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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Mehgan Hilobuk's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Dawn,

I just wanted to run another spending idea by you. I received this great idea from a co-worker, and although it can be pricey it is well worth it for the kids. I have a classroom store. The students collect Conry's Cash (my madien name, I just got married in March so I am still thinking about what I am going to call my cash this year). I have all denominations of bills made with my picture and school year on it and daily the students can earn money by bringing back their agenda signed, quietly getting into line, turning all of their work in, etc. At the end of 6 weeks, I tell the students to take home their money and count it. Usually, on a Friday I have the store. In the store, I don't just have pencils and pens, I have things that appeal to my fourth graders....candy, friendship braclet kits, wallets, footballs, digital keychains, etc. This is a really great incentive for the kids to want to earn money. Now, my store is expensive so sometimes the kids might not buy something and wait until the next store time because of an items price. It teaches them to be responsible and patient with their money. Again, it is costly for me to do this, but its for the kids.

I have realized I am going to spend out-of-pocket money always. I love my students too much to "hold back". I work in a low-economic school district, and I enjoy too much watching my students go to the classroom store, because many of them don't every get to get what they want from a regular store. Like you stated, one smile from a student makes it all worth while. Good luck to you!

Christine Stebbing's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Candice- You raise some really interesting points on what we are teaching our students about in regards to consumerism and money. This past year I have talked to my students about the economy, the school and district's financial crunch and our state's disasterous budget. I've been honest with my students about how the prizes in the treasure box have been pared down due to my own financial conservativeness, and I have been really pleased with how much the understand and can relate. In fact, I think they actually found that this was something we could all relate to(I teach in a low socioeconomic area).

Check out this link to a special report on this same site:
http://www.edutopia.org/financial-literacy-introduction#comment-64100
It talks about educating students about money and the global recession.

Christine Stebbing
MA in Ed.
Walden University

Maggie Winters's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I just finished my first year of teaching in a kindergarten classroom. I saved all of my receipts for tax purposes and found that I spend just over $1,200!! That's about $1,000 more than I wanted to. I am frustrated with this because I had a new principal that didn't know what she needed to tell me as far as what the school/district provides. I found that a lot of the things I bought to better my classroom were supposed to be provided for me, but somehow got lost in translation. Frustrating, I know! I also noticed that our principal refused to spend any additional money on anything for her staff. She must have been confused on how our budget works, because at the end of the year she was trying to spend all the left-over money on anything and everything because she found out it would expire at the start of the next school year. I am hoping that this coming school year will be better as far as budgeting goes. Since I am teaching the same grade this year, I do not need too much in terms of supplies. I am allowing myself a budget of $300 for this school year. We will see how far that goes :)

Maggie Winters
Walden University Grad student

Brenda Collins's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Mehgan,
I am a graduate student at Walden University, like many others posting comments. This is my first time blogging and I am gaining a wealth of knowledge by reading other's comments. I have taught second grade for two years at a rural school in McCormick, South Carolina. We have very limited resources, therefore, I spend my own money. Sometimes it is more than I can really afford to; but, I do it for the love of my students. As I was reading your comments, I was intrigued to the items you purchased. It is ironic, I have purchased most of the same or similar items for my second graders. I have had about the same number of male and female students. Before buying anything, I take into consideration the educational value of it. Then, I think about the joy they get from receiving a token that is more for fun or pleasure. I care so much for the lives I touch, so I really do not mind spending a little extra.

Brenda Collins

Laura Jannausch's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My name is Laura and I am also a graduate student at Walden University. I currently teach first grade in Metro-Atlanta. I have read many of these posts and it seems like many teachers are willing to spend the money on their classroom for the good of the children. At the same time, however, I read the blogs talking about economic hardships and having to cut back on spending that extra five dollars here, and ten dollars there. In my county, my colleagues and I have discovered that we are not recieving the $100 that we usually recieve for our classrooms. This means we recieve the limited money from our own schools and that is it. Being a second year teacher, I do not have many materials and supplies from years prior so I find myself buying a lot more than other teachers. Unfortunately, I need to buy these materials in order to make my classroom run the way I want it to. This situation is a double edged sword because either you spend the money to make the class run, or refrain from spending the extra money and try to survive without those materials all year.

In my opinion, spending the money is annoying, but it is worth it. Yes it helps the students, but let's face it - it is my money, so I will spend it if it makes my life easier!

Brenda Collins's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Candice,
I am a Walden University graduate student, blogging for the first time. I teach in a rural school in South Carolina. I, too, am guilty of overextending myself. I think your idea of talking to students about the economy, even the younger ones, is a great idea. I have had quite a few unpleasant experiences. Everytime the treasure box began to get low some of my students would ask, "When are you going shopping for more tokens?" Sometimes, I made excuses when the treats were running low saying things like, "I really wanted to wait until I go to Walmart or SAM'S at the end of the week," which is twenty-five and fifty miles away, respectively. Or,I ran out and picked up whatever I could afford at the time just to pacify them. After all, we are adults and children think we "always" have money, right? I will be better equipped when school begins this year. Thanks to everyone for sharing your ideas.

Brenda Collins
Walden University
M.S. in Education

Janice Murray's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Unfortunately, I always over spend for my students. I have found that there are some parents who are willing to help out and contribute more than what is required. I usually give my parents a quarterly need list that gives them the opportunity to help out with these costs. Most of the time it is easier for me to just get it myself rather than waiting to see if someone will donate the itmes needed. I generally spend around $300. The school that I previously taught at did not give teachers any kind of allowance. Everything we needed from teaching material down to name tags was purchased out of my own pocket. I do keep my receipts and turn them in for the tax credit that was mentioned. It has saved me money. We as teachers want the best for our students and also make learning fun and exciting. As a professional teachers we will always go the extra mile to assist in educating our students beyond what is expected.

Janice Murray's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Michael,
Yes, we all have budgets and other finacial obligations. It appears that we all find that giving out of our own pockets assists in helping us with the success of educating our students. With my reward system that comes out of my own pocket, my students are able to feel and see their achievements or their efforts made to reach their goal. I usually purchase things that can be used again or laminated and saved for each year. I tend to go over board at times, but it generally is worth it.

Janice Murray's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I just love that idea of having a school store. Not only are they earning rewards for responsibility and rules, but they are learning mathmatics and frugal spending as well. Cool.

Shelley Natalie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with you Christianne children should be held accountable for what they have. Sometimes if they haven't bought the item with their own money they don't respect it enough to care for it. A good lesson for children to learn is when child wants somthing bad enough, they have to earn it, then when they get it they will appreciate it much more.

Shelley Natalie
Graduate Student at
Walden University

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