By Menka Suresh, Kelsie Radziski, and Ashley Pavlakis
Inflation pushed up the cost of classroom supplies by around 10% according to a study published by NielsenIQ in August 2022, forcing teachers to spend more money out of pocket.
Teachers spent an average of $750 of their own money on classroom items in 2021 because their school budgets did not cover the total cost, according to surveys conducted by AdoptAClassroom.org, These studies have also found that teacher spending has increased by 25% since the surveys began in 2015.
“I won’t let my kids suffer and not enjoy certain activities because they may cost a little more,” Nancy Sanders, a first grade teacher in Miller Place, LI, said.
The recent inflation adds more strain on teachers. The United States inflation rate was at 9.1% in June of 2022, the highest rate of the year. It remained high throughout the summer, which meant teachers trying to buy supplies for the upcoming school year were facing extreme prices.
“Now it’s a huge debate on whether [the supplies are] really needed or I just want to have [them],” Teresa Terlato, an elementary music teacher in Auburn, MA, said. She was given a $1,500 budget by her district and had to adjust the way she purchases supplies based on increasing prices.
Brandon Allen, a second year music teacher on Long Island, has purchased items like drumsticks for his students because his allotted budget did not cover them. He makes sure all his students have equal access to supplies, even when it comes out of his own pocket.
“I believe that a better budget that accommodates all necessary resources will allow our students to have a better experience,” Allen says.
Many students do notice when teachers go the extra mile for them.
“They shouldn’t have to pay out of pocket to make [their students] happy,” Sam Bremer, a high school sophomore, said.
Budgets vary depending on the district. While many teachers struggle to stretch them to cover their needs, some are fully taken care of by the administrators.
Gary Bretton, a sixth year principal in Brookhaven, LI, offers insight into how administration handles budgeting in his school. The school allots $125 per student to spend on classroom materials and has teachers submit wish-lists for the upcoming year to confirm how much money will be set aside based on their needs.
“Inflation is definitely playing a part, but I do feel that we have sufficient funds available. My teachers are not paying out of pocket for materials,” Bretton said, “We are always looking at ways to provide our students with enriching experiences.”
When Nancy Sanders, from Miller Place, started teaching 31 years ago, she was given $200 for supplies; now she gets $150 and has to budget carefully to cover the higher prices.
“It’s hard, don’t get me wrong, but I am thankful to be in a district where if I truly need something, parents are also always willing to lend a helping hand.”