The True Cost of Being a Teacher Test your knowledge, understand teacher compensation, and ways you can help

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Shannon Lee Read bio

The importance of teachers in our society cannot be understated. But even though teachers change the world one child at a time, their compensation usually doesn’t reflect the heavy responsibility of teaching young minds. And as school funding gets harder to come by, many teachers reach into their own pocket to supplement their classroom supplies, purchase extra books and give their students other necessities of learning. Continue reading to better understand teacher pay, academic funding and what you can do to help a teacher out.

Quiz:
How much do you REALLY know about teacher pay?

Everyone agrees that teachers are extremely important. So they should be paid accordingly, right? Unfortunately, teachers often struggle to make ends meet, even if they are teaching in a wealthy district. In fact, teacher compensation is probably much less than what you might think. Test your teacher facts by checking out the following quiz.

The Hidden Cost of Teaching

There’s no doubt teachers are amazing. They’re often so invested in their students that they will go the extra mile (or more!) to help them succeed. For many, this means spending a great deal of their own money to purchase school supplies, instructional material and other classroom necessities.

This is especially true in areas where education funding has been cut by state legislature or local school boards. And as of 2013, low income students make up the majority population in public school systems. When students can’t afford the materials they need to learn, those supplies have to come from somewhere – and it’s often the teachers who take on that responsibility. The numbers tell the story:

On average, teachers spend a whopping $600
out of their own pocket to purchase basic supplies each year.

An astounding
91% of teachers dig into their own bank account to purchase supplies for families that can’t afford them.

Teachers spend
more than a billion dollars – yes, billion, with a “b” – on their own classroom supplies every year.

Teachers in
high-poverty schools tend to spend about 40% more of their own money for supplies than teachers in wealthier districts.

The average weekly wages of a teacher are 17% lower than other college-educated professionals; 25 years ago, that gap was only 1.8%.

Get Involved: Help a Teacher Out!

Teaching is a labor of love, but it shouldn’t be a drain on the bank account. Parents, friends and members of the community can get involved by helping teachers in a wide variety of ways. Parents can pick up extra supplies as they purchase supplies for their children, then donate the extras to the classroom. Gently used books, musical instruments and art supplies are often very welcome. Provide extra snacks and shelf-stable juice boxes for the classroom. And of course, monetary donations are always appreciated.

Want to go about donation in a more organized way? Perhaps you prefer to donate to schools in hard-hit areas, or want to help with a very specific need. Check out these resources that can help you do just that.

AdoptaClassroom.org.

During the 20 years this site has been in operation, over 175,000 classrooms have been adopted to the tune of $35 million in funding. Get involved by giving to a particular teacher, subject, type of classroom or one with the most urgent need.

ClassWish.

Give to any K-12 school or teacher in the country through this site. Give directly or through the use of gift cards, fundraising options and more. You can even choose to give funds for a very specific purpose, such as more modeling clay for an art class.

Create the Good.

This website offers numerous volunteer opportunities. Among those is a comprehensive toolkit on starting a school supply drive. Get together with a group of friends, ask teachers what they need, and give the community a chance to help.

Digital Wish.

This site caters specifically to the technology shortfall in many classrooms today. You can donate, start a fundraiser or purchase items directly from a teacher’s wish list and have them sent to their school for immediate use by needy students.

DonorsChoose.org.

Founded by a teacher in the Bronx, this website allows donors to browse through projects based on location, urgency, subject, age group and more. For select projects, donations will be matched by generous partners.

First Book.

Worried about how many books students have in the classroom? First Book, a non-profit based in Washington, D.C., provides children and educators with essential classroom resources, including books for low-income students. Your donation helps ensure everyone has an equal chance to learn.

Fundly.

This fundraising site offers a section specifically for education, where teachers, schools and other educators can describe what they need, and you can choose where to donate. Projects might include everything from supporting an art class to helping a school begin a food bank for students.

Fund My Classroom.

Fund the wish list of teachers across the nation with the money for field trips, equipment and projects. You can also choose to foster a classroom, where you will be paired with a particular classroom and provide encouragement and funding to help them succeed.

GoFundMe.

This popular fundraising forum is often used by individual teachers who have a very specific need, such as raising money to take children on an educational field trip. This can also be a way to help a teacher who has fallen on hard times and needs a little extra to make ends meet.

Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation.

Named after the blockbuster film, this foundation accepts donations of gently used musical instruments, which are then distributed to classrooms to help foster K-12 music education.

National Cristina Foundation.

Many students don’t have computers in the classroom, which puts them at a disadvantage in a world that increasingly relies on technology. This foundation takes donations of gently used computers and related equipment and offers them to at-risk students, the economically disadvantaged and those with disabilities.

PledgeCents.

This fundraising site offers teachers an opportunity to share their projects with the world and gives donors the chance to provide monetary help to bring those projects to fruition. Expect to see many updates from teachers as they use the funds to build better classrooms.

Treasures 4 Teachers.

This organization sticks close to home by dedicating their work to teachers in Arizona. Donations allow the organization to provide free and low-cost supplies to hard-working teachers in the state.