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The 17 states where teachers are spending the most on school supplies

Mack DeGeurin

Aug 20, 2019

94% of public school teachers reportedly dipped into their own funds to pay for class supplies between 2014 and 2015.

On average, teachers spent $479 out of pocket, with nearly 10% reportedly spending more than $1,000.

INSIDER analyzed 2008 Department of Education data on teacher expenditures and adjusted for inflation to figure out where teachers are spending the most on classroom supplies.

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With the summer coming to a close, students all around the country are busily being bombarded by back to school sales and summer reading deadlines. When many of those students finally sit down for their first days of class, however, they may find their bookshelves empty, and the supply cabinets bare. And teachers are often stepping up to solve the problem.

Between 2014 and 2015 it’s estimated that 94% of all US public school teachers paid out of pocket for classroom supplies. Nationwide, these teachers spent $479 on average with nearly 10% reportedly dishing out over $1,000 according to survey data released by the National Center for Education Statistics. A survey by Scholastic found that teachers often spend their money on products that might seem standard to an outside observer. Some of the most common classroom materials teachers purchase include room decorations, notebooks and binders, snacks for students, and other essentials like tissues or Band-Aids.

Last week, INSIDER analyzed IRS data to determine which states had the highest percentage of teachers paying out of pocket. Now INSIDER is looking at where teachers spend the most. To find out, INSIDER analyzed National Center for Education Statistics data from 2008. The NCES is responsible for providing and publishing useful data on the US education system; their last survey on teachers purchasing school supplies was in 2008.

To account for this, INSIDER adjusted the 2008 data for inflation and the change in per-student state spending from 2008 to 2016. Much can change in a decade and it’s likely out of pocket expenses for teachers haven’t remained completely consistent through that time. With the data currently available, this ranking should still serve as a good estimate.

Continue scrolling below to see the 17 states where teachers spend the most out of pocket on classroom supplies.

© Enrique Castro-Mendivil/Reuters

17.  North Carolina teachers spent $526 on average on classroom supplies.

North Carolina legislators proposed a bill earlier this year which would give licensed public school teachers $400 dollars to help pay for school supplies.

Average teacher salary in 2016: 
$49,837

Total amount state spent on school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, and other materials for classroom study during the 2016 school year: 
$404,208,000

Average state spending per student in 2016: 
$13,373

Sources: Internal Revenue ServiceNational Center for Education StatisticsGoverning.com

16.  Florida teachers spent an average of $535 of their own money on classroom supplies.

In 2013 state legislators passed the Florida Teachers Classroom Supply Assistance Program, which provides every licensed public school teacher in the state with a debit card to help pay for select classroom supplies. The amount of funds available to teachers vary by district.

Average teacher salary in 2016: 
$49,407

Total amount state spent on school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, and other materials for classroom study during the 2016 school year: 
$487,810,000

Average state spending per student in 2016: 
$8,920

Sources: Florida Department of Education, Internal Revenue ServiceNational Center for Education StatisticsGoverning.com

15.  Massachusetts teachers spent an average of $544 on classroom supplies.

Average teacher salary in 2016: 
$77,804

Total amount state spent on school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, and other materials for classroom study during the 2016 school year: 
$277,803,000

Average state spending per student in 2016: 
$15,593

Sources: Internal Revenue ServiceNational Center for Education StatisticsGoverning.com

© Ted S. Warren

14.  Missouri teachers spent an average of $546 of their own funds to pay for classroom supplies.

Missouri will reimburse teachers for up to $250 of their out of pocket expenses. Two bills currently being proposed aim to increase that number to $750.

Average teacher salary in 2016: 
$48,293

Total amount state spent on school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, and other materials for classroom study during the 2016 school year:
$358,768,000

Average state spending per student in 2016: 
$10,313

Sources: Columbia Missourian, Internal Revenue ServiceNational Center for Education StatisticsGoverning.com

13.  Mississippi teachers spent an average of $546 of their own money on classroom supplies.

The Mississippi Department of Education uses “Educational Enhancement Funds” to help teachers pay for classroom supplies. Teachers receive procurement cards at the beginning of every school year which cover, on average, $350 worth of funds.

Average teacher salary in 2016: 
$42,925

Total amount state spent on school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, and other materials for classroom study during the 2016 school year: 
$102,866,000

Average state spending per student in 2016: 
$8,702

Sources: Mississippi Department of EducationInternal Revenue ServiceNational Center for Education StatisticsGoverning.com

12.  On average, Ohio teachers spent $550 of their own funds on classroom supplies.

Earlier this year, Ohio senator Stephanie Kunze proposed a tax break that would allow teachers to be reimbursed for up to $500 worth of supplies they purchased with their own money.

Average teacher salary in 2016: 
$57,000

Total amount state spent on school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, and other materials for classroom study during the 2016 school year: 
$459,953,000

Average state spending per student in 2016: 
$12,102

Sources: The Cincinnati Enquirer, Internal Revenue ServiceNational Center for Education StatisticsGoverning.com

© Reuters

11.  New York teachers spent an average of $554 out of pocket to pay for classroom supplies.

Kelly Finlaw, a New York City middle school art teacher, told INSIDER she uses her own funds to pay for her students’ art supplies at least once per week.

“There are multiple times where I go to Staples in my lunch period and buy pencils,” Finlaw said. “When a kid needs a specific colored pencil for a project or a specific marker, that is what I’ll do with my weekend. I will go to Michaels and buy that color.”

Average teacher salary in 2016: 
$79,637

Total amount state spent on school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, and other materials for classroom study during the 2016 school year: 
$729,050,000

Average state spending per student in 2016: 
$22,366

Sources: Internal Revenue ServiceNational Center for Education StatisticsGoverning.com

10.  Rhode Island teachers spent $583 of their own funds to help cover the cost of classroom supplies.

Rhode Island state representative William O’Brien is trying to introduce a “teachers bill of rights,” which would legally ensure teachers wouldn’t have to pay for supplies out of their own pockets.

Average teacher salary in 2016: 
$66,477

Total amount state spent on school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, and other materials for classroom study during the 2016 school year: 
$23,693,000

Average state spending per student in 2016: 
$15,532

Sources: NBC Turn to 10, Internal Revenue ServiceNational Center for Education StatisticsGoverning.com

9.  Colorado teachers spent an average of $586 on school supplies.

Many cash-strapped Colorado teachers use a service called the Resource Area for Teachers, which purchases classroom supplies in bulk and sells them to teachers for up to 90% off the original value.

Average teacher salary in 2016: 
$46,506

Total amount state spent on school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, and other materials for classroom study during the 2016 school year: 
304,275,000

Average state spending per student in 2016: 
$9,575

Sources: Denver PostInternal Revenue ServiceNational Center for Education StatisticsGoverning.com

© Rick Wilking/Reuters

8.  Maryland teachers spent an average of $610 of their own funds on classroom supplies.

Earlier this year, Arizona representative John Fillmore sponsored legislation that, if passed, would provide teachers with a $1,000 state tax credit to help pay for classroom supplies. The bill, called HB 2034, is intended to “reduce the financial burden on school teachers who personally purchase educational supplies and materials that are used in the teacher’s classroom and uniforms and clothing that are used for educational purposes.”

Average teacher salary in 2016: 
$47,403

Total amount state spent on school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, and other materials for classroom study during the 2016 school year: 
$194,855,000

Average state spending per student in 2016: 
$7,613

Sources: Teacher Supply Swap,Internal Revenue ServiceNational Center for Education StatisticsGoverning.com

7.  New Mexico teachers spent an average of $637 on classroom supplies.

Teachers who qualify for New Mexico’s Teacher’s Supply Program are given a $100 Visa prepaid debit card to purchase school supplies.

Average teacher salary in 2016: 
$47,500

Total amount state spent on school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, and other materials for classroom study during the 2016 school year: 
$105,846,000

Average state spending per student in 2016: 
$9,693

Sources: Internal Revenue ServiceNational Center for Education StatisticsGoverning.com

6.  Arizona teachers spent an average of $655 on classroom supplies.

Earlier this year, Arizona representative John Fillmore sponsored legislation that, if passed, would provide teachers with a $1,000 state tax credit to help pay for classroom supplies. The bill, called HB 2034, is intended to “reduce the financial burden on schoolteachers who personally purchase educational supplies and materials that are used in the teacher’s classroom and uniforms and clothing that are used for educational purposes.”

Average teacher salary in 2016: 
$47,403

Total amount state spent on school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, and other materials for classroom study during the 2016 school year: 
$194,855,000

Average state spending per student in 2016: 
$7,613

Sources: Associated Press, Internal Revenue ServiceNational Center for Education StatisticsGoverning.com

© Reuters

5.  Michigan teachers spent an average of $661 on classroom supplies.

A new bill being proposed in the Michigan Senate would provide a tax credit of up to $1,000 for teachers who end up paying out of pocket for classroom supplies.

Average teacher salary in 2016: 
$62,200

Total amount state spent on school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, and other materials for classroom study during the 2016 school year: 
$254,201,000

Average state spending per student in 2016: 
$11,668

Sources: WLNS, Internal Revenue ServiceNational Center for Education StatisticsGoverning.com

4.  Nevada teachers spent $749 of their own funds on classroom supplies.

Since 2015, over 24,000 Nevada teachers have qualified for a reimbursement of up to $250 if they spend their own money on classroom supplies.

Average teacher salary in 2016: 
$57,376

Total amount state spent on school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, and other materials for classroom study during the 2016 school year: 
$140,144,000

Average state spending per student in 2016: 
$8,960

Sources: Internal Revenue ServiceNational Center for Education StatisticsGoverning.com

3.  Teachers in Hawaii spent an average of $752 of their own money on classroom supplies.

In a poll released by the Hawaii State Teachers Association, 47 percent of Hawaiian teachers said they spent between $250 and $500 on classroom materials. A new bill being proposed would let teachers write off notebooks, pencils, books, and other classroom materials as a tax deduction.

Average teacher salary in 2016: 
$57,674

Total amount state spent on school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, and other materials for classroom study during the 2016 school year: 
$73,434,000

Average state spending per student in 2016: 
$13,748

Sources: Hawaii News Now, Internal Revenue ServiceNational Center for Education StatisticsGoverning.com

© Kodiak Island Borough School District/Facebook

2.  Alaska teachers spent an average of $808 on classroom supplies.

Alaskan teachers have also relied heavily on the crowdfunding site DonorsChoose. According to a report released last year by The Anchorage Daily News, about 4% of Alaskan public school teachers had at least one major school project funded entirely from the website.

Average teacher salary in 2016: 
$68,138

Total amount state spent on school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, and other materials for classroom study during the 2016 school year: 
$56,348,000

Average state spending per student in 2016: 
$17,510

Sources: Anchorage Daily News, Internal Revenue ServiceNational Center for Education StatisticsGoverning.com

1.  California teachers spent an average of $866 of their own money on classroom supplies.

Despite having one of the highest teacher salaries in the nation, California public school teachers still routinely find themselves paying for basic school supplies. Earlier this year, Californian assembly member Steven Choi introduced a bill that would slightly ease that burden by offering a $250 tax break to teachers who spent their own money on books, supplies, computer equipment, or supplementary materials.

Average teacher salary in 2016: 
$78,711

Total amount state spent on school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, and other materials for classroom study during the 2016 school year: 
$2,185,023,000

Average state spending per student in 2016: 
$11,495

Sources: CBS 13, Internal Revenue ServiceNational Center for Education StatisticsGoverning.com

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