NewsBack to School 2023


Families, teachers stretch budgets for back-to-school spending

School Supplies
Posted at 10:45 AM, Aug 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-30 12:59:21-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As students return to the classroom at the start of the school year to fill their brains with knowledge, teachers and families are emptying their pockets for school supplies.

One woman says the need for school supplies in the Kansas City area is apparent.

A few years ago, Linda Leone began stocking her Little Free Library with more than just books — she adds school supplies at the start of the school year, and spreads the word on Facebook.

“I had three backpacks filled with school supplies on the school list,” Leone said.

She restocks the Little Free Library occasionally, and has noticed the supplies are disappearing faster this year than before.

“I put them out there like 9:30, 10 at night, and they were gone the next day,” she said. “Sounds like people need help, doesn’t it?”

While facing the highest inflation in decades this year, the National Retail Federation says families plan to spend an average of $864 on back-to-school shopping. That’s over $160 more than in 2019. 38% of consumers said they’re cutting back spending elsewhere to pay for it.

Kansas City Public Schools says more than 4,000 people signed up for their Summerfest this year, where they gave away backpacks full of school supplies and more.

Teachers, like Stephanie Tauber, are feeling the pinch of inflation too.

“I have had to take a lot from my school budget and put it into my grocery budget,” Tauber said.

She said her district, KCPS, does provide supplies, but she still spends hundreds of dollars of her own money each year.

“Glue sticks, crayons, markers, scissors,” she said. “We always need those. Those go by so quick — and dry erase markers.”

Teachers across the country dig into their own pockets to buy supplies for their classrooms. The latest data from the Department of Education showed 94% of public school teachers spent their own money.

Nonprofit, which provides classrooms and families in need with school supplies, says 95% of teachers they surveyed in 2021 said their classroom budget wasn’t enough, and on average, teachers spent $750 out of their own pocket.

“We want our teachers to have everything that they need to teach effectively,” said Elle Moxley with KCPS. She said while the district has had ways for teachers to request supplies previously, the district “found that teaches weren’t really taking advantage of that in the way that we wanted them to.”

This year, she said the district told their teachers they have $250 to spend each semester through district vendors including Amazon, using funding partially from COVID-19 relief.

“We really want to formalize that process and make sure that teachers are not spending as much out of their own pocket and that they’re really relying on those district resources,” Tauber said. “My best friends that are teachers, they are struggling just as much."

Sometimes social media steps in to make a difference. Tauber said she posts a wishlist to a local Facebook group. This summer, we saw Royals and Royals Charities asking for teacher wish lists to fill.

Jason Roberts, president of the Kansas City Federation of Teachers and School Related Personnel (Local 691), told KSHB 41 News that teachers spending their own money on supplies is "unfortunately common."

“With the cost of everything going up and the expectation that teachers supply students with necessary materials, they are working for even less. This should truly be unacceptable,” Roberts said in a statement.

Moxley with KCPS says the district doesn’t want their teachers to have to spend their own money, and hopes $250 per semester to spend on supplies this year will help.

“We kind of looked at our budget. We saw what we had available to spend in classrooms and we were like, ‘okay, what can we do for our teachers?’” she said.

Tauber already had ideas on how she would spend any extra money.

“I really want to set up a calming area for kids in my classroom this year and that could buy two beanbags right there,” she said. “It’s not things we want. It’s things we need if we want to make our learners more successful and more engaged.”

Moxley added that any KCPS teacher who wants to know more about the $250 per semester should reach out to their principal for more information.