Buying school supplies is not just an expense for parents. Studies show the average teacher now spends almost $500 a year on classroom supplies. A big reason for the increased out-of-pocket spending is state education-funding cuts that have added up over the years. Reports from the Education Market Association and Agile Education Marketing show just how expensive it is for teachers:
- Overall, teachers spend $1.6 billion per year on supplies
- 99.5% of teachers spend some of their own money
- The average teacher spends $490 on supplies
- 1 in 10 spends more than $1,000 a year
Some of the money is spent on things like wet wipes, spray cleaner and copier paper. But 90% of teachers buy supplies for students whose parents can't afford pencils, notebooks and the like. Third-grade teacher Gayle Tosto told us she does it, "Just to make a difference for them rather than worrying about all the crazy politics that are always thrown in at us. And that's the part that's hard, but it's always about the kids."
The federal government used to provide a $250 income tax credit for teachers who spend their own money. That credit expires in 2013. Efforts to raise it to $500 a year and make it permanent stalled in Congress last fall.
Some teachers reach out to parents for help by sending out wish lists at the start of the school year. Even small donations and leftovers can go a long way. "Those crayons that you've had in your basement that your kids aren't using anymore, those are the things that really help teachers out," said high school history teacher Ashley Schwarzvek. "Asking your kid's teacher if they need something at the beginning of the year is really a way that the community can help out."
Many stores including Michael's, Office Depot and The Container Store offer teacher discounts of varying degrees. The National Education Association maintains a list on its Web site for union members to access.