Study Counts $1.44 Billion Spent by Teachers on School Supplies

(CN) – After a tumultuous spring for U.S. teachers — marked by strikes and rallies in half a dozen states for higher pay and more school funding — a study released Tuesday shows nearly all educators spend their own money on classroom supplies.

Teachers chant as they continue to protest at the Arizona Capitol on May 3, 2018, in Phoenix. After an all night legislative budget session the legislature passed the new education spending portion of the budget and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed that part of the budget. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The study by the National Center for Education Statistics — a subdivision of the U.S. Department of Education — found that a whopping 94 percent of all teachers reached into their own pockets for classroom supplies without reimbursement in the 2014-15 school year.

With total spending amounting to around $1.44 billion, the study says each teacher spent an average of $479. Teachers at city and elementary schools were more likely, however, to drop more cash.

The report says 94 percent of public school teachers and 88 percent of charter school teachers bought their own materials.

“It is great this study is out, as it reveals an increase in the spending and percentage of teachers who spend at exactly the time we’re discussing how we’re investing in the education workforce,” Colin Sharkey, executive vice president of the nonprofit Association of American Educators, said in an email Tuesday.

“Educators are so devoted to their students they’ll gladly purchase not only classroom supplies, but snacks and personal hygiene items to provide for their kids,” Sharkey added.

It’s not clear whether snacks and hygiene items were included in the NCES study, and a representative for the Department of Education did not return a request for clarification and comment Tuesday afternoon.

“Teachers go into the profession because they care deeply about kids’ learning and well-being,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said in an email Tuesday.

“When their classrooms lack basic supplies like chalk, tissues and textbooks, and when kids’ families are struggling to provide necessities, the immediate solution is for teachers to buy these things themselves,” Weingarten continued.

Weingarten said it is the desire educators have to help children that spurs them into action. “As long as their students lack the essentials,” she said, “educators will continue to dig deep, while fighting the defunding and underinvestment that created this crisis in the first place.

“There is no other job I know of where the workers subsidize what should be a cost borne by an employer as a necessary ingredient of the job,” Weingarten continued. “But that is who teachers are, and that is why it shouldn’t take nationwide educator walkouts to address the lack of investment in schools.”

The results came from the 2015-16 National Teacher and Principal Survey.

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