Letter to the editor: Why do teachers have to pay for school supplies?

September 23, 2018

Everyone likes a bargain, and at this time of the year, bargains for teachers keep popping up on my computer screen.

When I taught years ago, even though supplies were purchased by the district, the average teacher spent about $600 of his or her own money for other supplies. In a 2017 survey, teachers quoted sums that ranged from $500 to $2,000 for things like chapter books, bookshelves, folders, pocket charts, science supplies, construction paper, tissues and hand sanitizer.

I question whether nurses purchase hypodermic needles and tissues out-of-pocket. Do secretaries and office administrators purchase files and paper out-of-pocket? Does the clerk at the grocery store purchase cash register rolls out-of-pocket? Of course not. Those things are supplied by the employer. So why do teachers find it necessary to purchase things with their own money for their students’ well-being beyond the $250 tax deduction they are allowed for such things?

A fifth-grade teacher in Ohio who spends as much as $1,000 says, “The tax write-off is nice to acknowledge what educators spend,” she says, “but I will keep spending as it is what my students need.”

If we agree that educating students is important for the country’s future, shouldn’t it be the responsibility of all of us to fund our schools so that teachers can be like everyone else and not have to pay out-of-pocket for things their students need?

Carole A. Briggs


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