The too-often hidden school funding story is the extent to which teachers subsidise the education of their students and make up for inadequate school funding.
Out of their own pocket, teachers pay for classroom essentials such as pens, pencils, paints and exercise books or provide essential classroom equipment such as pin boards, crates for resources and even floor coverings, heaters and fans. Some teachers believe this is part of their vocation; others as an expectation that no other job expects. With more decisions about school finances being made at the school level teachers need to consider how in their school they can ensure that classroom essentials are covered in the school budget. Public school teachers should not be paying out of their own pockets for essential class resources.
Federation members can detail their out of pocket school expenses in an online survey on Federation’s website. The survey asks teachers to estimate how much they spent in 2013 on their classroom including classroom supplies, educational materials, furniture and student welfare, teacher professional learning and staff room and general maintenance.
The survey results will be used to highlight the extent to which teachers make up for funding shortfalls in our public schools and so why it is necessary for the full Gonski funding to be delivered.
To enable more transparency in school finances, Federation workplace committees could call for reporting on school expenditure and/or participation in finance committees. With more local decision-making, teachers need to understand more than ever school finances and the politics of education funding.
Federation last surveyed members about out of pocket expenses in 2011. The survey found that some teachers spend up to $4000 of their own money every year on resources for their students. This equates to 2–3 per cent of their salary.
Out of pocket expenses include any items for which the teacher is not fully reimbursed by the school. The Australian Tax Office (ATO) provides for tax deductibility of expenses incurred in earning one’s income and depreciation for the work-related proportion of physical assets. The tax deduction occurs, however, at the teacher’s marginal tax rate. This means the teacher is not fully reimbursed, with there being a delay between expenditure and the receipt of a tax return.
Taxation Ruling TR 95/14 (http://law.ato.gov.au/atolaw/view.htm?DocID=TXR/TR9514/NAT/ATO/00001) provides the latest information from the Australian Taxation office on what teachers can claim.
The survey will be live until the end of March. The survey can be accessed on https://www.nswtf.org.au/survey/survey-teacher-out-pocket-expenses.