You might consider office supplies provided by your employer a given — but not if you’re a teacher. A survey this year by the National School Supply and Equipment Association found that virtually all teachers — 99.5 percent — use their own money to buy basic classroom supplies. Last school year, teachers shelled out an average of $485 over the course of a year.
At Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa, English teacher Haley Moehlis spent the days leading up to the beginning of school scanning dozens of books to create a digital library. She bought most of those books, and the bookcases, too. The old ones the school provides don’t really fit in her room.
“I needed to be able to have furniture that I could work around, so that I could have access to the whiteboards,” Moehlis says.
The English department has a supply budget: $1500 for 12 teachers, who all teach several classes. It doesn’t go far, so Moehlis spends about $200 of her own money just getting her classroom ready each year. And that’s just the beginning.
“Over the course of the year it’s the little things that add up,” she says.
Like many teachers, Moehlis buys paper and pens to keep on hand for students who forget them — or can’t afford them.
Her colleague, guidance counselor Ryan Williamson, also stocks school supplies for students in need. He’s even bought students clothing and driven them to college visits, on his own dime.
“The hard part is figuring out which students need the help but are too proud to ask,” Williamson says.
“I think teachers have always spent out of their own pocket,” he says. “But I think it has really gone up as school supply budgets have decreased.”
But the same economic forces that put pressure on schools and families also affect teachers. The NSSEA survey found that while teacher spending is rising, it’s still less than before the recession.
“The last couple of years, when we’ve all taken pay cuts, it’s been harder and harder to reach into our pockets,” says Colleen Briner-Schmidt, president of a teachers union in Thousand Oaks, California.
But she says teachers still do what they can to make sure students are ready to learn, even if their own paychecks take a hit.
If you’re a member of your local public radio station, we thank you — because your support helps those stations keep programs like Marketplace on the air. But for Marketplace to continue to grow, we need additional investment from those who care most about what we do: superfans like you.
Your donation — as little as $5 — helps us create more content that matters to you and your community, and to reach more people where they are – whether that’s radio, podcasts or online.
When you contribute directly to Marketplace, you become a partner in that mission: someone who understands that when we all get smarter, everybody wins.
make public service
Thank you for doing your part!