WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement responding to a new National Center for Education Statistics report showing teachers spend an average of $479 a year on school supplies out of their own pockets:
“Teachers go into the profession because they care deeply about kids’ learning and well-being. When their classrooms lack basic supplies like chalk, tissues and textbooks, and when kids’ families are struggling to provide necessities, the immediate solution is for teachers to buy these things themselves. It’s telling that teachers spent the most—some spent well over $1,000—in poverty-stricken schools where kids are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. That is why, years ago in New York City, we started Teachers Choice as a way for the New York City Council to help defray the amounts educators spent on their students’ classroom needs. And it’s why we established the AFT First Book partnership to deliver over 5 million books to kids. Another way to mitigate the cost is the federal tax deduction for supplies, although the $250 dedication only really means teachers save between $30 and $60. And even that measure was under attack by Republicans in Congress before teachers mobilized to save it.
“Educators want to help children; that is why, as long as their students lack the essentials, educators will continue to dig deep, while fighting the defunding and underinvestment that created this crisis in the first place. There is no other job I know of where the workers subsidize what should be a cost borne by an employer as a necessary ingredient of the job. But that is who teachers are, and that is why it shouldn’t take nationwide educator walkouts to address the lack of investment in schools.”