Teachers spend hundreds on supplies for their classrooms they are never reimbursed for

Local News

School will be back in session for both public and private schools within the next month. That means thousands of teachers statewide are busy preparing their classrooms.

Pens, paper, books and even baskets are tools they need to help educate our keiki. It turns out most of them are spending hundreds out of their own pocket on supplies.

Colorful calendars, fun fabric and even seasonal erasers are all things you often see in elementary school classrooms. They are also things many teachers are probably paying for with their own money.

Jenifer Evans is a second-grade teacher at Moanalua Elementary School.

“I was in earlier today seeing what I have and what I don’t have and these are things that I needed for the year,” Evans said, pointing to a list of supplies written on the dry erase board.

She’s already purchased quite a few other necessities, including color-coded folders.

“I pre-number a folder with the students number so that when a student comes into the classroom, they’re ready to go even though a parent might not have had time to pick up their supplies,” Evans explained.

She has a folder for each and every student and she pays for it all out of pocket.

“My accountant told me that I spent $1,000 last year, which is better than the year before,” Evans said.

She is not alone.

According to a U.S. Department of Education survey, more than 94-percent of teachers nationwide bought supplies they weren’t reimbursed for. On average, they spent $479, but 7 percent of teachers, like Evans, spent more than $1,000.

Cecilia Chung is a teacher at Kaimiloa Elementary.

“We try to source from within the school. Our school will sometimes give us money to spend on our supplies depending on grade level and that’s very nice, and that varies from school to school,” Chung said.

But the amount they are given rarely covers everything. Evans said she shells out the money for more supplies because she believes it helps them in the learning process.

“I think every teacher is doing that because we want to give the students the education they deserve. We want them to have experiences, not just enough knowledge to pass a test. We want the experiences to stick with them,” Evans said.

Both Evans and Chung say there are resources for teachers to help them get the supplies they need and they both try to utilize them.

“Donors Choose is a website, a nonprofit organization that helps teachers post projects so anyone around the country can support them to get what they need for the classroom,” Chung said.

Anyone can donate to their child’s school or even a teacher on the www.donorschoose.org.

Another resource teachers can look into is www.neamb.com.

Evans also shared some additional money saving tips.

“Stack your savings. Target has a Cartwheel app and right now they have 15 percent off if you’re a teacher. With the app, you can turn it into 30 percent and even 50 percent off,” Evan explained. “Look around do your research before you spend, and always ask for a teacher’s discount.”

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