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Teachers Spend $1.3 Billion Out of Pocket on Classroom Materials

Total teacher expenditures on classroom supplies and instructional materials reached $3.5 billion in the 2009-2010 school year, including support from parents and PTAs.

Public school teachers in the United States spent more than $1.33 billion out of pocket on school supplies and instructional materials in the 2009-2010 school year, according to new research released by the National School Supply and Equipment Association (NSSEA), a trade association for educational product companies.

The report, "The 2010 NSSEA Retail Market Awareness Study," was based on a survey of 308 K-12 teachers in May 2010 conducted by Perry Research Professionals. It revealed that teachers spent on average $356 of their own money on supplies and resources, including an average of $170 on supplies and $186 on instructional materials. (Instructional materials were defined as software and games, as well as paper-based teaching aids and other non-equipment teaching materials; supplies were defined as printer paper, arts and crafts supplies, pencils, glue, and other similar supplies.)

Despite the total $1.33 billion out of pocket price tag for classroom materials, average individual teacher expenditures were actually down this year compared with previous studies: $395 in a 2007-2008 NSSEA study and $552 in a 2005-2006 NSSEA study.

Why the recent decline?

"Teachers are feeling the pinch just like others affected by the downturn in the economy," Adrienne Watts Dayton, vice president of marketing and communications for NSSEA, told us in an e-mail. "While teachers continue to supplement the resources in the classroom, parents too are asked to contribute to the shortages in school budget."

A full 92 percent of teachers reported spending some amount of their own money on classroom supplies, while a smaller but still significant 85 percent reported spending their own money on instructional materials.

Looking beyond out of pocket expenses, teachers spent a total of $3.5 billion in the 2009-2010 school year, an average of $936 per teacher--$398 on supplies and $538 on instructional materials.

The major source of classroom supply funding aside from the teachers themselves was parents, who spent an average of $19 per student on classroom supplies. NSSEA estimated that amounted to about $475 per teacher based on a 25-student average classroom. The study said that 47 percent of teachers indicated parents are required to buy classroom materials. Other sources of funding included PTA funds and school purchase orders but were not broken out in the report.

NSSEA represents more than 1,400 companies that supply educational products. Further information about the study, which runs $199, can be found on the association's site here.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .