Teachers Paying for School Supplies Out of Pocket


Despite the fact that many teachers look for a second job in order to make enough to support their own lifestyles and families, in the majority of schools they have little choice but to purchase supplies for their own classrooms. Most spend hundreds to thousands each year on standard school supplies, such as pencils, cases of copy paper, glue sticks, and markers, along with other classroom materials (games, books, supplies for STEM-related activities, etc.). More often than not, educators are not reimbursed for their back-to-school purchases due to there not being enough room in the budget, and many teachers feel a certain level of disrespect at this fact. Each teacher wants their students to succeed, and they will only be able to do so with the necessary supplies, whether or not the funds for these materials comes out of their own budget.

Spending on Classroom Supplies

The amount of money that teachers spend buying supplies for their classroom per school year varies based upon where schools are located in the United States, specifically whether schools are in high-poverty or low-poverty regions.

For teachers with extremely meager salaries, buying supplies for their classrooms can be a burden. When winter comes and germs start to spread, the costs of tissues, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and paper towels begin to add up. This needs to change, whether schools across the country find a place in their budget to pay for these supplies or parents who are more financially stable donate a small amount of supplies to their children’s classrooms. Above all, it doesn’t matter if teachers have the finances to buy these supplies because they shouldn’t have to. 

Classroom supplies aren’t the only materials, however, that some teachers are purchasing for students. According to The Guardian, “45% of the teachers told the union they had also spent their own money buying basic necessities for pupils over the past year, with most paying for food, while 29% purchased toiletries and 23% said they bought clothing or shoes.” This issue of spending on supplies goes beyond the classroom. When families and schools cannot provide for students, teachers are left to do it. It’s the system, the world we live in. The only way to change the fact that teachers are paying for school supplies out of pocket is to change this system.

Overall, teachers across the country buy supplies for their classroom because they love their students and want nothing more than for them to succeed. But oftentimes teachers help out their students at their own expense. Between the fact that teachers are underpaid and buy supplies for students, something needs to change.

Final Thoughts

Teachers don’t get enough credit for all they do inside and outside of the classroom. Purchasing school supplies out of pocket is just one example of this. Even though it isn’t in their job description, the vast majority of teachers go out of their way to keep their classrooms fully stocked, even when it only does them harm in the long run. On $42,000 a year, a high school teacher in Florida cannot afford to spend a portion of her salary on supplies, which goes to show just how much some are affected by this prospect. There has to be a way for educators to get the supplies their students need without dipping into their own funds!

This post was written by one of U4SC’s Educators 4SC Research Assistants, Samantha.