The Economics of Teaching

It’s tax time and time for the annual review, in our house at least, of where we spent our monies last year.  I usually provide our accountant with a spreadsheet of anything that we can clearly deduct which includes the amount of money I spend on school. Some years that is a painful profess.

I have to admit that I probably only capture about 75 percent of what I spend on my classroom and kids. There are many times when I shop at Staples or Michael’s and buy something for our household and slip in a few bucks worth of something I can’t live without — just try to live without sticky notes, no-can-do.

Totaling up that number for a year – books for the classroom, folders, pencils, pens – can be quite an eye-opener!

Which got me to thinking. School budgets get slashed every year. Every year we are asked to do less with more. And every year there is some new program or initiative that is under-funded (or unfunded). Our new science program is an example: this past week as my grade level team has been planning for the next part of one unit, we discovered a list of supplies needed – which includes a couple of different plants for each pair of children – and the majority of items on the list were starred as “provided by the teacher.” Now there’s a nice little assumption: teacher will buy those supplies for a class of 25! I give the science program points for both honesty and chutzpah.

What if, instead of listening to those uninformed loudmouths who blather on about how much “those teachers are costing us” or who comb through the budget slashing this, that and the other line item, teachers actually started reporting what they personally spent to run a classroom? And what if, we consolidated those amounts by school district at budget time so that the public got a clue about how much those “greedy” teachers GIVE to their municipality ?

I’m not talking about extra coursework, professional development, or dues to professional organizations. I’m talking supplies that the Districts don’t have to purchase because teachers take the money out of their own wallets.

If the IRS allows a $250 deduction and there were 1000 teachers in a district dipping in to their own money, that would be $250,000. I’m looking at real numbers that top the $250, sometimes I’ve spent close to $2,000 on classroom materials. That number then starts to look pretty impressive.

Wouldn’t that be an interesting number to know on a district-by-district basis? Most likely there wouldn’t be any shift in thinking for bigmouths who complain about how expensive education is, but it would be satisfying to know that it might enlighten some who think of education as a drain on the municipal budget.