By Annie Kim
Last Updated: August 2, 2022
The Average Teacher Spends $560 Out of Pocket in Supplies
Almost one-in-five teachers spending $1000+ to make sure their students have essential supplies
Diving into their own pockets to purchase supplies, books, and more for their classrooms is certainly nothing new for American teachers, whether they’re in public school or private school classrooms.
But, like just about every other area, inflation is expected to take its toll this fall as teachers begin preparing their classrooms for another school year.
To follow-up on research we’ve conducted in previous years, we talked to hundreds of U.S. teachers about whether they expect to spend their own money on supplies.
- The average teacher will spend about $560 out of pocket on their classrooms this year; up from $511 last year. However, nearly one in four teachers say they’ll spend more than $750 of their own money during the 2022-23 school year.
- On average, elementary school teachers receive about $11 per student from their schools’ budgets, but they spend an additional $33 out of pocket on each student.
- One in four teachers said their schools didn’t allocate any funds for classroom items this year.
Teachers to spend 10 percent more out of pocket this year on classroom supplies
On average, teachers who contribute their own money to their classrooms are planning to spend about $560 this year. This is an increase of about 10 percent over last year, nearly identical to the overall rate of inflation over the same time period.
How much are teachers spending out-of-pocket on classroom supplies?
|$1 - $249||24%||27%|
|$250 - $499||29%||30%|
|$500 - $749||21%||20%|
|$750 - $999||11%||6%|
Overall, nine in 10 teachers told us they spend money that’s not reimbursed by their school on their classrooms and students, though this was much more common for public school teachers than those working in private schools. Ninety-two percent of public school teachers said they’ll spend money this year they won’t get back, compared to 73 percent of private school teachers.
And for teachers of younger students, their personal spending per-student dramatically overshadows what their school budgets allow. For kindergarten through fifth grade teachers, the average out-of-pocket spending is expected to be $33 per student, compared to just $11 per student provided by their schools.
One in four teachers said their schools didn’t allocate any funds for classroom items this year.
Many students come to school without the needed supplies, so teachers help fill the gap
Just under half of teachers told us that supply lists provided to parents include items specifically for classrooms, but only one-quarter of teachers get most of what they need. Of course, parents are also dealing with higher school supply costs, and many of them may have been negatively impacted by the expiration of expanded child tax credits, which expired in December 2021.
The Columbia Center on Poverty and Social Policy estimated that the tax credits reduced child poverty to the lowest rate on record. That’s not to say parents aren’t doing what they can. Just over half of teachers said between one- and three-quarters of parents provide all the supplies they ask for.
Teachers spend the most on items like books and software for their classrooms
While teachers certainly are spending money on items some may consider non-essential, such as decor and prizes, they’re dedicating most money to non-consumable items. This includes books, curriculum, and software – items most people would deem necessities for learning.
|Average teacher spending per category|
|Non-consumable classroom supplies (books, curriculum, and software)||$95|
|Prizes and rewards for students||$92|
|Food/snacks for students||$91|
|Consumable student supplies (pencils, paper, tissues)||$78|
|Cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer||$47|
The teachers we talked to also planned to spend nearly $50 on average for cleaning supplies. Though Covid-19 continues to spread cross-country, the cleaning supplies provided by schools may not be sufficient for teachers to keep their classrooms free of germs.
Resources for teachers
One way for parents (and non-parents) to help teachers outfit their classrooms for the school year is to purchase things off their Amazon wish lists. Talk to your local schools or teachers you know to find out more about what they need to make their school year a success.
Here are a few deals and opportunities for teachers looking to save on classroom supplies:
Kindergarten through grade 12 and homeschool teachers can get a 15 percent discount on school supplies at Target through Sept. 10.
Educators with a valid school ID can get 15 percent off their purchase at Michaels.
Association of American Educators classroom grant
Apply by October 8 for a $500 grant which can be used to purchase books, software, calculators, math manipulatives, art supplies, audio-visual equipment, lab materials, and more.
AdoptAClassroom.org Spotlight Fund grants
This organization offers grants in several categories for educators. STEM teachers, art teachers, and teachers of color can apply for unique grants, as well as teachers who need support to make their classrooms more inclusive for students of all types.
Despite the fact that most people agree teachers are underpaid, they are still expected to dig into their own household budgets to provide items necessary for classroom instruction. And these costs are going up, slightly higher than the overall rate of inflation.
We surveyed 210 school teachers in the U.S. about how much they expect to spend (if anything) out-of-pocket to outfit their classrooms for the upcoming school year. Our survey was conducted online in July 2022.