School supply spending numbers reveal little reimbursement

School supply spending numbers reveal little reimbursement
(Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Teachers are speaking out anonymously about how much they spend each year for school supplies out of their own wallet, and only a tiny amount are ever getting reimbursed.

According to a questionnaire from the U.S. Department of Education, released Tuesday, 94 percent of all public school teachers spent their own money on classroom supplies without reimbursement.

The survey was taken by teachers during the 2014-15 school year and is sorted by selected school and teacher characteristics.

[READ THE FULL REPORT: https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018097.pdf]

Teachers who spend their personal money on classroom supplies are eligible for $250 in tax deductions from the federal government.

At Sam Hughes Elementary School in midtown Tucson, 1st Grade teacher Ellen Dunscomb said she's thrown a local life preserve. She was quick to applaud the school's Parent Teachers Association who covers the cost of the supplies she needs.

"If it were not for those people it would be all on our plate," Dunscomb said.

And a full plate it would be.

The average teacher at Dunscomb's elementary school level is shelling out, on average each year, $526 for supplies, according to the questionnaire.

"The average amount spent by teachers of elementary grades ($526) was higher than the amount spent by teachers of secondary grades ($430). A higher percentage of teachers of elementary grades spent more than $1,000 (nine percent compared to six percent), and a lower percentage spent $250 or less (38 percent compared to 50 percent)," the survey explained.

"It's expensive," Dunscomb said. "I hear about summertime - 'teachers aren't working.' But these people are in here all year long, just trying to make school be a wonderful place for the kids. That's the bottom line: We are here for the kids."

Dunscomb called her fellow teachers 'scavengers' who are foraging for the future, in the name of public education.

"I think teachers learn how to make do. We've done that for a long time. You just make it work," she said. "It'd be nice if we had the backing of a few more 
people."

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