The Power of Social Media is Helping Cut School Supply Costs for Teachers Around the Country
It’s well known that teaching is a profession that is significantly underpaid despite how important it is to the world.
It would surprise many people to learn that teachers also pay for school supplies every year out of their own pockets. This can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars, if not thousands of dollars being spent by educators who can barely survive on their paychecks.
According to an AdoptAClassroom.org 2021 survey, teachers spent an average of $750 on school supplies out of pocket during the 2020-2021 school year. This was the highest amount spent ever. Astonishingly, 30% of the teachers had spent $1,000 or more.
Amid the Ukraine/Russia war and soaring inflation, the National Retail Federation has said that 84% of consumers are expecting to see school supply prices rise this season.
Some teachers are thankfully catching a long-waited break since a TikTok page went viral earlier this year. The TikTok page @TeachersWishlists has been gaining recognition across the U.S. as it encourages platform users to click on a teacher’s list and buy items from that list.
“It doesn’t have to be somebody that looks at a list and then clears every item and buys everything off of a list. It’s, it’s buy, you know, one $5 pack of markers for the teacher, buy one $10 book for the teachers,” said a North Carolina teacher to ABC11 News.
The account, which was started by another teacher in Pennsylvania earlier this year, now has more than 16,000 teachers on the list.
Classroom necessities that teachers must restock themselves can include everything from dry-erase markers and paper towels to items as basic as pencils.
How a teacher decorates their classroom also depends on how much they will spend. Decorating is ultimately for the benefit of the students and to make them feel comfortable in the classroom.
“The way that the economy is right now, everything’s like, ridiculously expensive, and I’m having to like, use deals that I can find right now,” said Marianna Rodriguez to ABC11 News. Rodriguez is starting her fellowship this year working with students.
“I have spent thousands on classrooms before, especially starting out in this profession,” said Lori Kahey, a Nashville school teacher. “My friend across the hall is a new teacher, and she spent around $2,000 getting her classroom ready. I don’t think she will ever spend that much again, but her classroom is beautiful and inviting, and her students love her.”
This can be very problematic considering that teachers are not reimbursed for all of their costs. In Nashville, only up to $200 is eventually paid back, despite how much is spent. In general, $200-$300 is the average across the nation that a teacher can expect returned to them.
“Any teacher can be reimbursed up to $200 for any expenses they have for their classroom needs — those funds are included in school budgets and approved through school principals,” says Dawn Rutledge, public information officer for Metro Nashville Public Schools. “Of course, we understand the needs oftentimes exceed the resources, but … $200 is the maximum that [can be reimbursed].”
Tarte Cosmetics, which has an 840k following on TikTok, has been amazingly clearing the lists of many fortune teachers on the TeachersWishList page.
But even those who have just had a couple of items from their lists purchased are expressing their gratitude. TikTok user @AndreaRobles7732 wrote, “A sweet, kind person purchased 2 items from my list and it was an instant waterfall of tears. I don’t know who it was, but I truly hope they know how thankful I am!! The support and love mean the world to me and so many teachers. Every bit of help will be a ray of sunshine in so many classrooms.”
For a teacher, getting school supplies paid for by others is a game-changer and TikTok isn’t the only way for teachers to score free products. Teachers could save big this fall season by checking out some websites below:
1. Register with AdoptaClassroom.org to connect to their network of donors. The schools receive funds through Adopt a Classroom and teachers can spend them immediately on bulk school supplies through their online marketplace.
2. ClassWish.org is another efficient way to support schools, teachers, and students. The website lets teachers create their ideal school supply list and shows donors exactly what they need for their classroom. The process is super simple and only takes about a minute. All donations are tax-deductible for donors.
3. NAEIR (National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources) is a nationwide organization that offers teachers a way to get free school supplies like pencils, pens, scissors, and highlighters for their classrooms. After registering on the website, teachers will only have to pay a small processing and handling charge, with shipping being completely free.
4. Freecycle.org is a place where people post things they want to give away for free — or request things they’re looking for. The platform wasn’t designed for teachers, but they can find a lot of school supplies for free from it.
5. Education is one of the fastest growing categories on GoFundMe.com. There is a section dedicated to teachers who want to raise money for projects in the education field. Educators can start campaigns to raise money for school supplies, class activities and any other classroom need that arises.
6. The SupplyATeacher.org program provides teachers with two large boxes filled with a semester’s worth of essential school supplies. A Supply A Teacher donation gives the most critically needed items to the teachers most in need across the country.