Out-of-Pocket Teacher Expenses in 2023: Key Stats and How to Help

As the saying goes, “Not all heroes wear capes,” and this is especially true when it comes to teachers. Teachers do so much for their students and classrooms each and every day. Providing a quality education goes beyond the lesson plans and curriculum. Teachers also go the extra mile to provide classroom supplies to their students to keep them engaged and focused. However, out-of-pocket teacher expenses continue to increase, putting financial strain on our educators. In this article, we’ll go over how much teachers spend on classroom supplies and how you can help.

How much do teachers spend on classroom supplies?

According to the National Education Association, teachers are estimated to spend over $820 of their own money on classroom supplies for the 2022-23 school year. In fact, more than 90% of teachers pay for supplies and other essentials on their own. Educators who pay out of pocket for school supplies do this because they feel it’s important for their students’ comfort and success in the classroom. Although the Educator Expense Deduction allows teachers to deduct up to $300 of qualified expenses on their taxes, this still leaves teachers to cover a large portion of school supplies costs, causing financial stress.

What are the year-over-year percentage increases in the average costs of back-to-school supplies?

To further put things in perspective, inflation has caused the average price of essential school items to be even more expensive than usual. These supplies range from things like glue and pens to backpacks and shoes. Below is a breakdown of the year-over-year percentage increases in the average price for each item as reported by CNN:

    • 3M’s Scotch tape: Almost 70% price increase

    • Elmer’s glue: About a 30% price increase

    • Sharpies: Nearly 55% price increase

    • BIC pens: Around a 12% price increase

    • Writing materials/arts and activities items: Around a 25% price increase

    • Notebooks and folders: Nearly 32% price increase

    • Nikes: About a 12% price increase

Aside from these items, lunch boxes have also jumped 14% to an average of $25 and backpacks have seen a 12% surge, costing an average of $70. With these price increases, families are forced to rearrange their household budgets to accommodate school purchases. However, Brian Mandelbaum, CEO of Attain (formerly known as Klover), states that low-income households who live paycheck to paycheck are most affected by these rising costs. For this reason, many teachers in under-resourced schools commonly buy more than just classroom supplies to help their students.

What classroom supplies do teachers buy?

When you think of school supplies what comes to mind is most likely the usual items such as pencils, books, etc. But you might be surprised to find out that a lot of teachers routinely get basic needs items such as food and snacks for their students.

In paid partnership with GoFundMe, CUT created a video asking four teachers to show us how they would spend $100 on school supplies. The teachers who participated in the video were paid to tell their stories. Two teachers who were interviewed, Mr. Allen and Ms. Loneck-Kerpka, said they buy a lot of snacks for their classrooms.

I tend to buy a lot of snacks because how can a student think about solving a math problem if they’re worried about whether or not their stomach’s going to growl,” says Ms. Loneck-Kerpka.

Mr. Allen even goes out of his way to buy deodorant for his students. “I do deal with middle school students. Self-care is huge. Of course, not all students have access to everything so I want to have some things like that readily available for them,” says Mr. Allen.

Diving deeper into the estimated $820 teachers will spend on supplies this school year, a report by My eLearning World breaks down the amount of money that is expected to be spent on each category:

    • Non-consumable supplies (books, software, etc.): $193.55

    • Classroom decor: $172.23

    • Consumable supplies (pencils, paper, etc.): $142.70

    • Food and snacks: $121.39

    • Prizes: $119.74

    • Cleaning supplies: $70.53

Ms. Eley, a teacher at a Title 1 school, says she roughly spends $1,500 altogether on school supplies. “A lot of my kids don’t have funds to go to the store and buy supplies, so that comes out of my pocket. A lot of teachers have part-time jobs just to help pay for supplies,” says Ms. Eley.

When asked what their classrooms mean to them, both Ms. Eley and Mr. Shutes stated, “It’s my home away from home.

How you can help with out-of-pocket teacher expenses

To help ease the financial strain on our educators, GoFundMe.org has created the Education Fund that directly supports teachers and their classrooms. Every donation to the Education Fund helps many teachers pay for supplies, programs, and more. You are able to provide support for multiple teachers with a single donation to the Education Fund, and your donation is protected by the GoFundMe Giving Guarantee which provides a full refund for up to a year in the rare case something isn’t right.

Support teachers and their classrooms today

Teachers everywhere are impacted by out-of-pocket expenses. We can all come together and help our educators create a comfortable and functional learning environment for their students. Make a difference in a teacher’s life today by supporting their classroom with the resources they need to cultivate academic growth and success.