Since 2015, AdoptAClassroom.org has surveyed our national community of teachers about how much they spend out of pocket on school supplies. The question remains: Do teachers need to buy their own supplies in 2023 or is the issue improving?
This year, AdoptAClassroom.org celebrates its 25th year of supporting students and teachers. Unfortunately, while our reach and impact have grown, so have the needs of our nation’s teachers.
In spring 2023, we conducted our semi-annual Teacher Spending Survey with responses from more than 3,200 teachers in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico. Below are our findings.
Do Teachers Need to Buy Their Own Supplies in 2023?
The short answer is yes. Teachers are spending more on supplies in 2023 than ever before.
Teachers said they spent an average of $860 out-of-pocket on classroom supplies during the 2022-2023 school year. Teachers at high-needs schools spent the most; $880 per year on average.
Has Teacher Out-of-Pocket Spending Changed Over Time?
Teacher spending is a problem that continues to rise. Since our most-recent survey in 2021, teacher spending increased 14% (or $110). Teacher out-of-pocket spending has increased 44% since 2015 when we began surveying teachers.
What Supplies Do Teachers Need in 2023?
While teachers are spending their money on a variety of items for the classroom, they overwhelmingly need basic supplies like paper, pencils, and notebooks. Eighty-four percent of teachers said they need basic supplies.
Fifty-five percent of teachers need books and inclusive/adaptive materials. Forty-four percent of teachers said they need technology. Forty-three percent of teachers need furniture, which can include fundamental items like desks or wobble stools to help their students stay focused.
“The needs of my students are great. Whether it’s clothing or pencils, I try to make sure each of my students have what they need to succeed and feel good about themselves. Students come to school to learn, they don’t need stressors added to their lives. If I can help them alleviate those, I do. Organizations like AdoptAClassroom.org have helped me help my students. Thank you!” – Teacher in Massachusetts
Don’t Teachers Have Supply Budgets?
While schools often provide a classroom school supply budget, 93% of teachers said that funding is not enough to cover their students’ needs. Teachers said the median classroom school supply budget during the 2022-2023 school year was $200. Additionally, 47% of teachers said their classroom budget does not go as far due to inflation. Of all the supplies in their classrooms, teachers said they bought 60% of those items with their own money.
“My students are compassionate, hardworking, and have so much potential. I’m fortunate that my school does provide me with a supply budget, but it doesn’t cover the needs for 34 students. I spend my supply budget on basics, like pencils, notebooks, and paper. But we need so much more. AdoptAClassroom.org’s support has made a HUGE difference in how much comes out of my own pocket and I am so grateful.” – Teacher in California
What’s the True Cost of Teacher Spending?
Teachers spend their own money on school supplies because they know it matters for students. Not every student has equal access to supplies, books, and other materials at home. Seventy-nine percent of teachers said they purchase supplies because they want every student to have the same opportunities in the classroom. Fifty-eight percent of teachers said they buy supplies because students are experiencing poverty, homelessness and/or hunger at home and they want to help meet their needs at school. Forty-one percent of teachers said when they buy their own supplies, students learn more.
While the students benefit from teacher spending in the classroom, teachers pay more than financially. Sixteen percent of teachers said they work a second job to support their education career. Thirteen percent of teachers said they can afford to help because their spouse or partner helps to offset the financial burden of working in education.
“Times are tough for everyone right now. AdoptAClassroom.org gives hope for those that need that extra hand. Every student deserves the opportunity to learn. Not having enough pencils, erasers, etc, causes stress. A good teacher takes that upon themselves to provide everything needed in the classroom in order to support a positive learning environment.” – Teacher in Arizona
How Can We Help Teachers?
There is hope. Your support matters to teachers. Overwhelmingly, teachers say financial support from AdoptAClassroom.org positively impacts their desire to stay in the profession. One teacher told us:
“This year, the group of students I am teaching are highly affected by trauma related to personal life experiences and the COVID-19 pandemic. I have had to alter my approach to instruction in order to accommodate their social-emotional needs.
One of the ways I have adapted my instruction has been to implement more project-based learning in the classroom that incorporates real-world, expeditionary learning. We developed a zoo project to help students create and engineer artificial habitats for zoo species that promote conservation of local ecosystems.
This project has admittedly required more resources than our school is able to provide for, so I have used AdoptAClassroom.org funds to help purchase materials for my students. I am so grateful to AdoptAClassroom.org for giving me the ability to provide inquiry-based, culturally-responsive instruction to my students in order to help them overcome the trauma they have experienced in their educational journeys.” – Teacher in Colorado
How much did teachers spend on supplies over time? Read our previous surveys here:
Check out these other teacher surveys from 2022:
Are you a teacher in need of school supplies? Register your classroom with AdoptAClassroom.org for the supplies your students need.
- 2023’s total classroom budget statistic is the median reported by teachers.
- To report the 2023 teacher spending statistic, AdoptAClassroom.org was consistent with the 2021 methodology based on the distribution of data sets.