‘It adds up’: Out-of-pocket teacher spending hits record high

As teachers prepare for the new school year, they are buying school supplies and reaching deeper into their own pockets than ever before.

“Surveys have shown that almost all teachers say they pay for supplies for their classrooms without getting reimbursed,” according to My eLearning World, a publication focused on educators.



Nationwide, teachers will spend about $3 billion of their own money this year, My eLearning World reported. That is an average of $820 per teacher.

“It’s not all at once, but it adds up throughout the school year,” said Karen Kraus, a science teacher at Wheaton High School, in Montgomery County, Maryland.

“It’s a couple bucks here and a couple bucks there.”

Teachers are spending the most money on “non-consumable supplies,” including books and software.

Other items teachers are buying with their own cash include classroom decor, pencils, paper, folders, snacks and cleaning supplies.

Kraus said she typically spends anywhere from $700 to $1,000 on such items each year.

“A lot of people really don’t notice it until you’ve kept the receipts for things that you didn’t get reimbursed for and you’re going through those receipts and you’re like, ‘Oh my God.'”

According to My eLearning World, out-of-pocket spending for teachers has steadily risen over the years, reaching an average of $750 per teacher in 2021.

Now, that number is the highest it has ever been, up nearly 40% since 2015.

“Despite recent increases, the educator expense deduction still isn’t nearly enough to cover how much teachers have to spend, only allowing teachers to deduct up to $300 of out-of-pocket classroom expenses when filing their federal tax returns,” the publication reported.

The costs have gone up so high that some teachers have turned to crowdfunding platforms such as GoFundMe to try to raise money for their classrooms.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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