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Teachers struggle with out of pocket costs

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Teaching can be an incredibly rewarding profession, but it can also be an expensive one. As schools nationwide continue to struggle with tight budgets, many teachers are left to shell out their own money to provide for their students and classrooms. From pencils and paper to food for students, these costs can quickly add up.


Cheryl Hughes, a veteran teacher from the Empire State, estimates that she spends between $20 and $30 out of pocket every week to ensure that her students have the supplies they need to succeed. Over her more than 30-year career, she has spent a small fortune on classroom supplies, including notebooks, colored pencils, markers, and more.

In addition to classroom supplies, many teachers are also spending their own money to ensure that their students have access to food. In the wake of the pandemic, this issue has become even more pressing. Hughes notes that many schools, including her own, have set up pantries to provide food for students who might otherwise go hungry.

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For many educators, the high costs of classroom supplies and food for students are a serious concern. The National Education Association estimates that teachers spend an average of $500 out of pocket each year to make their classrooms effective. This number is expected to climb to nearly $1,000 in the coming years.

Despite these high costs, many teachers are dedicated to ensuring that their students have access to the resources they need to succeed. For Hughes, providing food for her students is a top priority.

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“When our kids are fed, they’re better behaved. They treat each other kinder,” she says. “Food is the answer to most of the problems in school.”

While many educators would love to see a larger budget allocated for classroom necessities, the reality is that many schools simply can’t afford it. In response, the New York State United Teachers Union is heavily advocating for a bill in Albany to restore pandemic-era free breakfast and lunch for all students. This would help to alleviate some of the financial burden placed on teachers, while also ensuring that students have access to the food they need to succeed.