It all adds up: Every poster, every colored pencil, every snack—every single thing that teachers buy each academic year to improve their students’ experience.
Perhaps that’s no more evident than during tax season, when teachers scramble for receipts for items they’ve bought throughout the year to prove they did indeed spend $300 on school-related supplies, the maximum deduction allowed by the IRS under the educator expense deduction. This amount represents a $50 increase over last tax season—the first bump since the deduction was enacted by the IRS in 2002. But it won’t cover the amount that most teachers spend on out-of-pocket classroom expenses, which has advocates asking for more.
Teachers, on average, planned to spend about $560 of their own money on school-related expenses for the 2022–2023 school year, according to a national survey conducted in August 2022 by Savings.com. Seventeen percent of teachers surveyed said they would spend at least $1,000 on classroom supplies. This latter figure is what U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) had in mind when he proposed the Educators Expense Deduction Modernization Act of 2022 last April. The tax deduction applies to K-12 teachers, instructors, counselors, principals, or aides who work in a school for at least 900 hours during the school year.
“Teachers work as hard as anyone—often harder—to support our students, yet they aren’t paid nearly the salaries and benefits they deserve, and they often spend hundreds of dollars of their hard-earned money on supplies for their classrooms,” said Sen. Brown in a news conference on the subject last April.
Despite Sen. Brown’s failure in 2022 to quadruple the amount educators can deduct from their taxes for out-of-pocket classroom expens es, the deduction last April did receive its first ever bump (of $50), which applies to this tax season. Eligible expenses include: pencils, paper, books, computer supplies, and other materials teachers use to support student learning.
And advocates continue to push for more. The Association of American Educators is among the supporters pushing to increase the existing Educator Expense Deduction to $1,000. “The current $300 expense deduction cap is woefully short of what professional educators spend annually to purchase many of their classroom’s basic needs, in addition to the cost of reliable home internet access which is a vital tool for educators in every school setting and grade level, as well as for professional development and training,” said Colin Sharkey, AAE executive director, in a press conference last month.
AAE has been collecting educators’ anecdotes about unreimbursed expenses. “I have spent approximately $1,200 of my personal money to create a welcoming atmosphere in my classroom,” said an Idaho high school educator whose experience was collected by the AAE. And it’s not uncommon for teachers’ school supply expenses to continue throughout the year.
Teachers can use this interactive “shopping cart” to tally up some common classroom expenses.
Try your hand at selecting supplies and watch the total at the bottom of this calculating sheet.
How we gathered our sample supply list: On Twitter, we asked teachers what school supplies do they typically buy out-of-pocket.