I Spent $1,300 on Classroom Supplies this Year.

Having spent the past four days snowed in and stir crazy, I decided to sit down and work on my taxes yesterday. In the process, I started digging through all of the receipts I’ve saved for items that I bought for my classroom.

Grand total for 2013: $1,300.

That number actually caught me by surprise simply because (1). I’ve made a systematic effort to buy LESS for my classroom this year simply because my family is broke and (2). I’ve had a TON of support from the parents of my students, who rally to the call anytime that I share a list of needed supplies with them.

Here are some highlights from my spending:

Most expensive purchases:  $159 for a subscription to Commoncraft — a tool that makes engaging video production possible, $110 on plants for a lab on plant anatomy, and $84 on a Brother scanner for digitizing student work.

Most common purchases:  Materials for use in my science labs, including $84 on consumables like marshmallows and spaghetti,  $25 for magnets and $12.50 for Pyrex test tubes.

Most important purchases:  $105 for a new winter jacket and backpack for a student living in poverty, $100 worth of gift cards to a local grocery store to provide Thanksgiving meals for families living in poverty and $47 for a webcam to Skype a homebound student into our classroom.

Purchases that my students liked the best:  $135 for new books for my classroom bookshelf.

Cheapest purchase:  $4.13 for replacement light bulbs for flashlights used in our light lab.

Now, I know full well that some of these purchases aren’t TOTALLY essential.

My kids could have lived without a Commoncraft subscription and it’s definitely not my responsibility to buy winter jackets and/or food for struggling students.  What’s more, I could probably have gotten some of these items purchased by the school if I had gone through the proper paperwork channels months before I needed them.

But that doesn’t change the fact that our schools are underfunded and our teachers — no matter what horrible things underinformed legislators want to say about them — are making up for that shortfall by pulling cash out of their own pockets.

Are we REALLY okay with that?





Related Radical Reads:

What Kinds of Things DO Teachers Buy for their Classrooms?

More on the Kinds of Things Teachers Buy for their Classrooms

Three Reasons Why North Carolina’s Plan for Paying Teachers is a REALLY Bad Idea


3 thoughts on “I Spent $1,300 on Classroom Supplies this Year.

  1. Sarah

    The year I did my taxes and found I had spent $4000.00 on my classroom (even bought carpeting, paint and whiteboards for the dilapidated and dismal classroom to make a pleasant learning environment) I had to stop and assess the situation. I was not contributing to my retirement nor reducing my debt load. I realized when I was 85 and eating cat food because I had neglected my personal finances, my students weren’t likely to say, “Hey, Ms. Smith, we really enjoyed that dynamic unit you taught in science thirty years ago. Let us take you out to dinner. I have since cut back, but still average close to $2000 a year and I have been teaching over 30 years. That’s a lot of money out of my pocket. I had to teach for over 20 years before I could afford to give up the second job and summer jobs that I held. Now that they have eliminated even the measly $250 tax write off for teachers, I am being even more conservative about spending money for my classroom. I am more likely to buy the winter coat for a poor student (especially when we are have 4 degree days and they are standing at the bus stop) than the latest technology. They can live without the latest technology but can have severe health consequences standing outside in 4 degree weather for hours.Like you, I am an avid promoter of reading. I have over 2,000 books in my personal library for students to check out (my kids prefer my classroom library to the school media collection and I even have kids from other classes come to borrow my books) but I’m not buying any more. Even at $5 a book that’s almost $10,000. Years ago the PTA even reimbursed us up to $250 a year for classroom supplies, but as our student population has shifted and we mostly have children who live in poverty that no longer occurs. If you are lucky enough to teach in one of the schools that serve the upper middle class, your students’ parents will help you tremendously. I did for four years and was amazed at how much they would help. A large percentage of the parents of my students are illiterate themselves and unable to barely support their families, let alone help out with classroom supplies. I’m doing the best I can, but feel frustrated when the school system will put in a surround sound system for my small classroom (which I don’t need and didn’t want) but won’t buy paper for the copier or decent textbooks supporting the common core. Don’t get me started on how many ink cartridges and reams of paper I’ve bought for my home computer to print out the new common core stuff. When you ask for resources they simply say “check the Internet and print it off.” I plan on teaching for a total of 45 years to max out my retirement and then hope to teach in a private school to supplement my retirement income. My parents and an uncle were all teachers. My father taught for 42 years and said years ago, it was so sad to spend your life in a profession that you could not honestly recommend to your students. I still love what I do, but I, too cannot recommend teaching to a young person. Thanks for letting me vent.

    1. Mary Davis

      Wow, I greatly admire you and Bill. I have been teaching for 21 years and don’t want to count what I have spent, much less tell the truth to my husband. (Please don’t tell on me). I have greatly cut back in the last few years, but now am in a Title 1 school and trying to get students excited about learning. That takes love and most times cash. Rock on, you are changing people’s lives. We can’t put a price on that.

      1. Bill Ferriter Post author

        Mary and Sarah —

        You both highlight another evil side effect of the underfunding of schools: Students in high poverty schools — and the teachers who work on their behalf — are in even greater need of supplies. That means either teachers spend MORE of their money or students “go without” again and again.

        I’ve always pushed for differentiated pay and funding for teachers and schools serving high poverty communities and your comments are a perfect reminder that those kinds of reforms are nothing short of essential.

        Thanks for working with the kids who need you the most!

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