Teachers Spend $745 a Year on Supplies: The Cost of Distance Learning

As of spring 2023, teacher out-of-pocket spending on supplies increased to an average of $860 a year.

Get the latest research from our 2023 survey here.

In June 2020, AdoptAClassroom.org surveyed U.S. educators to find out how much PreK-12 teachers spend on school supplies in the era of distance learning.

AdoptAClassroom.org received 3,938 unique, completed surveys from PreK-12 teachers at public, private, and charter schools nationwide. The survey found that during the 2019/2020 school year teachers are spending more than ever before.

Here are the findings from the 2020 AdoptAClassroom.org Teacher Survey:

Classroom Spending During the 2019/2020 School Year

  • Teachers spent an average of $745 on school supplies during the 2019/2020 school year. 
  • Most teachers spend their own money on distance learning materials. On average, teachers spent $252 this spring.
  • 45% of teachers said their spending has increased since distance learning began.

Student Engagement with Distance Learning

  • Teachers estimate that 43% of students were disengaged (missing class activities or assignments 50% or more of the time) during distance learning this spring.
  • 70% of teachers said they have dropped off or mailed items to their students’ homes for distance learning to keep them engaged.
  • 55% of teachers said students who were disengaged during distance learning didn’t have a stable home environment, housing, or food.
  • 53% of teachers said students who were disengaged during distance learning didn’t have access to the internet at home.

Distance Learning Supplies Purchased

  • 74% of teachers purchased home printing items (printer, ink, paper) for distance learning.
  • 41% of teachers purchased postage and mailing supplies to send supplies to students.
  • 37% of teachers purchased software for distance learning.
  • 37% of teachers purchased new technology for their own homes so they could teach remotely.
  • 37% of teachers still had to purchase classroom consumables (pens, pencils, markers, folders, notebooks) for distance learning.

Distance Learning Supplies Needed for Fall 2020

  • 59% of teachers need technology for students.
  • 57% of teachers need software.
  • 49% of teachers need classroom consumables (pens, pencils, markers, folders, notebooks).
  • 49% of teachers need postage and mailing supplies.
  • 48% of teachers need technology for their own homes so they can teach remotely.

AdoptAClassroom.org believes that every child should have access to the resources they deserve to succeed in school. Sadly, too often our nation’s educators have to use their personal funds in an attempt to give students equal access to education. The results from our 2020 Teacher Spending Survey highlight the fact that the need for teachers to spend their own money to do their job is increasing.

In December 2019, not long before the pandemic closed schools, we surveyed educators about the supplies they needed most. Since then, classroom needs have drastically changed. As one teacher responded, “Right now, there are so many unknowns for my classroom, all I know is that I cannot anticipate everything I need for the fall.” Teachers need funding to respond to current events in education. They need to be able to quickly access the materials they need most, and get them directly to students at home, or in the classroom.

Learn more about how AdoptAClassroom.org’s flexible funding model is the best way to give teachers the discretion and flexibility then need now.

Support AdoptAClassroom.org and provide immediate relief to educators nationwide so they can get what they need to respond to distance learning or whatever comes their way. Now more than ever, teachers need our support.

To see how teacher spending has changed over time, read our 2018 Teacher Spending Survey and 2015 Teacher Spending Survey.

Are you a teacher in need of school supplies? Register your classroom on AdoptAClassroom.org to fundraise for the education tools your students need.

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