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Educators, Principals Working in High-Poverty Areas Spend More Out-of-Pocket Money on Supplies

A new survey of over 4,700 U.S. educators conducted by Scholastic provides a snapshot of equity—or lack thereof—in America’s schools.

For one, The Teacher and Principal School Report revealed that while 61 percent of teachers in low-poverty schools receive discretionary funds from their school, district or parent-teacher organization, only 46 percent of teachers in high-poverty schools receive the same.

And while all teachers must reach into their own pockets to cover the costs of classroom supplies, teachers in high-poverty schools reported spending 40 percent more than teachers in other schools.

High-poverty teachers, the survey says, spend an average of $672 on school supplies (including food and cleaning materials) while teachers in low-poverty areas spend an average of $495.

The number one item teachers use their own money to purchase? Classroom decorations (76 percent), with supplies like notebooks, binders, pens and pencils being a close second (74 percent).

Teachers aren’t the only school employees to spend their own money on supplies. Principals do too—and spend even more on average.

The survey found that principals working in high-poverty schools spend an average of $1,014 every year to buy things like food, office decorations and classroom supplies for their schools.

It makes sense because regardless of teaching in a low or high poverty school, 83 percent of all teachers and principals could identify at “least one item asked about in the survey as NOT being adequately available to their students.” This includes things like access to Internet outside of school, access to books at home, and even basic needs such as food, housing and clothing.

Despite the challenges, 99 percent of both teachers and principals agree that their career is rewarding and the challenges are worth it.

"This is very hard work, but it is more importantly work from the heart. I love what I do, and as long as I am afforded the opportunity to continue in this position, I will do what is best for children at all times,” said one middle school principal from Tennessee to Scholastic.

At the end of the day, most educators strongly agree that providing equity for all of the nation’s children should be a national priority (97 percent of teachers, 98 percent of principals).

"There needs to be an understanding that equity doesn’t mean the same for everyone. Some families need a higher level of support and resources to participate equally in educational success," said one middle school teacher from Colorado, touching on the equality vs. equity debate in education.

Read the full survey results here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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