NJ teachers spend $470 of their own money on supplies each year, report says
The average New Jersey teacher is spending more than $470 of their own money on an annual basis in order to provide enough supplies for their classes, according to a state-by-state analysis of school and staff surveys.
The average total is $471.74 without reimbursement in New Jersey, the report finds. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 94% of K-12 teachers spend some amount of their own money on supplies without getting paid back.
"Most people are used to maybe grabbing a pen or something from the office and bringing it home. It's just the opposite for a teacher," said Sean Spiller, president of the New Jersey Education Association.
Teachers aren't left completely on their own by their districts, Spiller noted. But certain supplies only last so long. The average teacher in California and Michigan spends more than $700 yearly on supplies, according to surveys.
At any time of the school year, there are multiple pages of campaigns from New Jersey teachers on the site Donors Choose, which was specifically created to help teachers raise the funds they need to adequately educate their students.
But, Spiller said, oftentimes the educators who are most in need are teaching in communities where families struggle to provide their own resources for children at home.
"As educators, we have to make sure every single kid has the best chance to learn. Often that means going in our own pocket," Spiller said. "It's frustrating. Equally, at the same time, it's an example of how dedicated our educators are."
In many districts, according to past comments from the New Jersey School Boards Association, teachers request specific items from school administrators, with a set amount they can "spend," and then the supplies are provided to the teacher. It's common, the association said, for teachers to spend some of their own money for supplies.
Teachers can take advantage of the Educator Expense Deduction available on federal income tax returns, the association said. That permits eligible educators to deduct up to $250 for related materials.
New Jersey's U.S. Senators are among a list of federal lawmakers behind legislation that would quadruple the allowable deduction to $1,000 for teachers.
"Through a simple change in the tax code, we can ensure that our educators receive some of the hard-earned money they spend back during tax season," said Sen. Cory Booker.
Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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