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Unlike Other Professions, Teachers Reach Into Their Pockets for Supplies

During the 2015-16 school year, teachers spent an average of $480 of their own money on classroom supplies. (Coffee/Pixabay)
During the 2015-16 school year, teachers spent an average of $480 of their own money on classroom supplies. (Coffee/Pixabay)
September 12, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. – The school year is here, and that means teachers once again are reaching into their pockets to pay for supplies in the classroom.

A Economic Policy Institute analysis of National Center for Education Statistics data finds Oregon teachers spent $463 of their own money on supplies for the 2011 school year, compared with the national average of $459.

That might seem like a post-Recession spike, but the national average was actually up by the 2015 school year to $480.

State averages weren't available for that year.

Economic Policy Institute economist Emma García says this is a unique burden.

"If you think of any other profession, how normal is it that you have to go to work with your own materials?” she raises. “And in this case, it's not just for them, it's for these children."

The analysis also finds that average spending at high-poverty schools was $523, compared with $434 at low-poverty schools.

García notes that teachers spend money on materials one might expect, such as pencils, paper and books, but they also reach into their wallets for health supplies, such as hand wipes.

She says this is an indication of the increasing number of roles teachers play in the classroom, including as first responders and caregivers.

García calls these issues a sign that the system is dysfunctional.

"We are not resourcing, funding, providing the resources to our schools and to our teachers and to our children so that they do well in the school,” she stresses. “That is the most worrisome part."

García says properly funding schools is one of the most important fixes.

This session, Oregon lawmakers passed the Student Success Act, which is estimated to add $1 billion annually to the state's education budget starting next summer.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR