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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

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

Comments (542)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Tiffany Yehle's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi this is my first time blogging and it is interesting to see how much we spend to help educate students. This is going to be my third year teaching 4th grade and today I spent over $600 on materials for my classroom. I believe that students are becoming more hands on learners and needs colorful materials that are up to date. I am also finding out that centers really allow students to apply their knowlegde and practice what they have just learned. With having a two year old daughter with down syndrome I do not want to create learning centers every night. My time with my husband and daughter are more important.

William McGinn's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have been very lucky as a Special Needs teacher in that I have a very supportive administration. Anytime I have approached them about a need the response has always been the same, " if you need it get it!" I know that has not been the experience of many so I guess I will count myself as one of the lucky few and will stay where I am for as long as possible!

Liz W's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a fifth year Spanish teacher and I spend a few hundred dollars each year on supplies as well. For one, I subscribe to some magazines in Spanish for my students to read. Also, I like to do a lot of projects that involve creativity and making things with their hands. Therefore, I need markers, glue, paper, glitter, etc. In order to make these assignments mandatory, I've found I really need to supply them. Many of my students can't afford the objects on their own, or their parents won't go to the store and buy them the items, so they rely on the school to give them things to help finish projects. My school does reimburse for some things, but alot of the cost falls on us as teachers. I have no kids yet, and can see why many of you cut down on spending when that happened!

Now that I am a few years in to teaching, I feel like the spending needs have decreased. Once you have all the decorations, books, worksheets and what not, the yearly expenses do go down. But I still try and get candy for rewards and things. I tip I have is that I use a ticket system for rewards in games (they turn in the tickets each week for a grade), and it saves me money on buying rewards.

Lauren Budweg's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I also try not to spend much on my classroom but often I need something and the school does not have much to help. I have heard of a website where a teacher canlsit needs and then someone can meet that need. Has anyone ever heard of this?

S. McCloud's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I was a first year teacher last year and we recieved 100.00 form the state and it did not go very far at all, because you have to spend it within the first two weeks of school. By the end of the first two months I was buying supplies again. First year teachers definitely spend a lot because we are just getting started. I think I spent about three hundred dollars last year on various supplies. The fact that the students needed the experience was motivation enough for me to spend the money. I know it will get better eventually!

Casandra Coleman's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I spend hundreds of dollars each year on my classroom!! At times this can become frustrating, but in the end I realize that it benefits the students. Not all families are in the position to expose their children to some of the activities that my personal money funds. The point when I become irritated is when students come in with $150 sneakers but can not bring in a $1.99 notebook. I try to keep in mind that the students do not choose what their money is spent on!!

Stacey's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think we are all guilty of spending a lot of money on our students. I personally would do anything for my students. If they need something, they will have it. We are in a profession of love and caring. We fall in love with our students every year. We want the best for them. I not only spend money on supplies, but on special activities and rewards. When I notice my students work hard, I want them to know that I noticed. I reward my students. We may have anything from a picnic to a popcorn party.

My coworker, on the other hand, does not spend any money on her class. When she has a party for the kids or needs things for an activity, she puts out a sign up sheet for the parents. I think this is okay for a party, but not for our lessons. Spending our money is part of the job, in my opinion. I do not mind doing it, and my students are well worth it.

Krystal's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Angela,
I too am new to blogging. I saw that you were a Walden U graduate. I too am going through Walden to get my Masters. I was excited to see you had a district that supplied you with money. I remember my first year teaching and I walked into a bare room. I was given catalogs and told to order supplies but nothing more than $100. I ended up spending so much money my first year, and I haven't stopped since. I find a lot of spending goes for the new items I need to start a new technique i want to implement into my classroom. The district I am currently in allows $350 for supplies each year. Sometimes throughout the year I will need something that I didn't order in the fall. I normally will pick up the tab for this. It is worth it in the long run to invest in materials that work for teaching. Just like others must invest in suits, or boots, or in my husband's case a gun belt to take the weight off his back when he is armed up, we all have to use money to make our jobs easier.
One tip I can offer is to make the items that you can (flash cards, laminated printables...) and order those that you can't.

Lucia's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Spend! Spend! Spend! Thats my middle name. A colleague of mine and I joke that Oriental Trading know us on a first name basis. As many of you mention we do it for our students. I work in a private catholic school and i do not make a lot of money but i feel it is part of the job to spend my own money. In the summer I try to purchase most the items (crayons, pencils, notebooks, etc.) I need for school (Target, Wallmart, etc have great sales). My students get sooooo excited when they get to pick from the treasure chest box in my classroom as a reward. That is priceless!!!!!!!!
In my school there is also a teacher who rarely dips her hand into her pocket. She also always asks her parents to bring in items she needs for the class via notes or verbally.

Amanda 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Depending on the school district in which you teach, you may be fortunate or unfortunate in the amount of money you receive for your school budget. Whether a teacher recieves $10 or $1000 for their classroom budget, they are going to spend some of their own money throughout the course of the year. I feel that all great teachers are constantly looking for ways to make their teaching more effective for their students. In some cases, to be more effective it may cost you more money. I realize that people sometimes get upset about the fact that they have to spend money out of pocket, but the truth is, if you want it for your students or yourself, you will purchase it. If you don't think it's necessary, you won't buy it. I know that it can be frustrating that it seems as though we spend too much of our own money on our students. For myself, I pick and choose what I wish to buy for me classroom. There need to be limitations on what I purchase. I often ask myself, "What will I really use this for? What type of students will it help the most"? By asking yourself these questions, and setting limitations, I do not feel that teachers will go as overboard as the article states.

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