Survey: Teachers spend nearly $500 of own money on classroom supplies

Photo of notebooks. (WISH photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The first and only company to track how much teachers spend on school supplies just released its fifth and latest annual survey. SheerID says the company surveyed 674 teachers and the results showed that teachers on average spend $468 of their own money on school supplies each year.

Broad Ripple High School math teacher Katy Nelson says, yes, teachers do spend quite a bit, particularly earlier on their career.

As she enters her 23rd year teaching she says she has a lot of the classroom décor, organizational tools, etc. so, her school-supply load has lightened over the years. However, she still spends hundreds. She says, though, she didn’t get into teaching for the money. She does it for the kids.

Nelson says she begins shopping for school supplies to have in her classroom in mid-July and continues to track sales through at least Labor Day.

“So, it’s just a matter of what’s on sale that particular week.”

She says she can never have too much paper and pencils.

“And that way they’ve got what they need and you don’t lose any instructional time,” said Nelson.

“I’m always surprised. I’m surprised year after year that teachers are spending that much of their own money,” said Marci Hansen, VP of Strategic Channels for SheerID.com.

Teachers are eligible for a federal tax deduction of up to $250 for school supplies. These days, Nelson says she tries to keep at least her back-to-school shopping in that window. She says she’ll have about 150 students this year. And as one of about 100 teachers in the same building, pulling from the same supply closet, there isn’t always going to be what you need when you need it unless you have your own stash.

“Your classroom runs the way you want it to run. It uses the materials you want it to have,” said Nelson.

As much as teachers are spending, it’s actually less than last year according to SheerID.com. It’s not because teachers are buying less, but rather retailers are offering better teacher discounts.

“From the same survey we show that 96% of teachers will seek out retailers that offer a teacher discount when they’re buying for the classroom,” said Hansen.

Nelson decided to do her most recent shopping at the Staples at Glendale Shopping Center. The store was holding its Teacher Appreciation sale. Nelson found notebooks for a dollar and pencils much cheaper than what they’ll be in, say, Sept.

And according to SheerID.com, it’s also a way for stores to establish customer loyalty. But, even at the better price, teachers are still spending out of pocket to stock their classroom.

“They just are kind of quietly spending their own money and that it feels like something that if there could be more national awareness of it that maybe there could be a solution,” said Hansen.

Nelson’s passion for teaching is clear. She says, “I love what I do.”

But, when asked if she should be spending her own money to make sure students have what they need, it was a difficult question to answer.

“Because would teachers love to have more money to spend on supplies? Sure. But, it’s something we’ve always done.”

The most recent SheerID.com’s survey results have not been posted on the website yet. However, to see past surveys and to learn more about the company, click here.

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