Teachers out of pocket for classroom basics

Sue Simpson
Research Officer

Teachers’ out of pocket expenses averaged $1848 for the 2013 school year, a recent Federation online survey revealed.

This represents 3.02 per cent of a beginning teacher’s salary and 2.02 per cent of an experienced, unpromoted teacher.

Thirty per cent of respondents spent more than $2000 and 16 respondents more than $10,000.

Teachers too often fill the funding gap between government funding and community contributions and what teachers regard as necessary to engage students or even what is necessary to ensure schools are clean with proper staff facilities. Without individual teacher subsidies of the public school system, the school environment would be much less attractive for teaching and learning.

Survey respondents spent an average of $985 on classroom supplies (writing and drawing materials such as pens, pencils, paints, exercise books, pencil holders and buckets as well as craft supplies such as cardboard, glue, fabrics, magazines/newspapers); educational materials (books for class libraries, games and toys, sports equipment, music equipment, computer software for class use) and classroom furniture (such as pin boards, crates for resources, filing cabinets, additional seating or floor coverings, computer hardware and audio visual equipment and even heaters).

Teachers spent on average $169 on student welfare such as lunches, the provision of bus money and excursion costs for students, cost of mobile phone calls, prizes and rewards with some teachers spending more than $2000.

Teachers accompanying students on class excursions including camps found themselves out of pocket for an average expense of $90 up to a maximum of $3000.

Average expenditure on professional reading and keeping up-to-date through training and university courses (which may involve travel and accommodation) was $541 with some spending more than $10,000, if enrolled in a university course.

Teachers spent an average of $84 on items for the staffroom, enhancements to school issued toletries and even general cleaning equipment.

While teachers can claim a tax deduction on legitimate education expenses, teachers are still left out of pocket and there can be up to 18 months between expenditure and receiving a tax refund.

The survey reveals little has changed in the 12 years since Professor Tony Vinson’s Inquiry into the Provision of Public Education in NSW. He listed some of the ways in which teachers’ dedication subsidised the public education system including:

  • purchasing learning resources;
  • purchasing stationery for students; and
  • regularly subscribing to raffles and other fundraising ventures to support students’ travel to educational venues.

Teachers subsidise the public education system because of:

  • the inadequacy of school global budgets
  • expectations that spending your own money on classroom resources was part of the job
  • the desire for students to not miss out
  • the need to feel you were doing your job properly.

1243 teachers responded to the recent survey: 588 primary, 558 secondary, 79 special education and 18 K–12 teachers. More than 90 per cent of respondents were full time teachers. 73 per cent were unpromoted teachers; 23 per cent in promotions positions and 4 per cent were principals.

Where teachers are subsidising the system

Primary schools
The average out of pocket expenditure for primary school teachers was $1953.

Class budgets, when provided, are very limited. 22 per cent of primary teacher respondents received up to $200; 7 per cent up to $400 and 5 per cent over $400 to make a total of 34 per cent of primary school teacher respondents receiving any class budget.

Secondary schools
The average out of pocket expenditure for secondary school teachers was $1503.

Primary and secondary schools
Primary school teachers spent more on average than secondary school teachers on equipping their classrooms and providing for their students — $1221 for a primary teacher compared to $793 for a secondary teacher.

Primary school teachers spent more on average than secondary school teachers on student welfare — $196 on average for a primary school teacher compared to $133 for a secondary school teacher.

Secondary teachers spent more on average accompanying class excursions and pursuing further study.

Special education
Average out of pocket expenses for teachers in special education was $1770.

Part time and full time teachers
Part time teacher respondents spent on average $1549, just 18 per cent less than full time teachers’ average spend of $1881.

There was a big difference between primary and secondary part time teachers with primary part time teachers spending on average $1815 compared to secondary part time teacher average expenditure of $892.

Part time teachers in special education settings spent $1519 on average.

Principals, promoted and unpromoted teachers
Principals spent $2601 on average compared to teachers in promotions positions spending $2024 on average.

Primary promoted teachers spent $2102 on average compared to secondary promoted teachers $1914 and promoted teachers in special education $1421.

Full time non promoted teachers spent $1797 on average.