Results Of Teacher Out-Of-Pocket Expenditures Survey Released

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET) released the survey results on teacher out-of-pocket expenditures.  The survey consisted of 954 Tennessee teachers who reported they spent their own money to support classroom activities. The survey was conducted March 12 to April 1.  

There is a critical educational expense that is often not often considered: teachers who spend their own money to support classroom activities.  Many teachers routinely spend money out of their own pockets on necessity items for their students, according to most research.   By conducting this timely survey, Professional Educators of Tennessee hopes to assist and help educate stakeholders and policymakers in understanding that many teachers voluntarily use their own money to support their classroom work, and gain a better understanding into how much is typically expended in the effort.

Public education now costs federal, state and local governments more than $500 billion annually. This total is up from $354 billion 15 years ago and remains the largest state and local government expenditure. Traditionally, public schools in America were funded largely by local property taxes. However, local revenues have not always kept up with the needs of the schools and have actually decreased in many states. To offset this change, state government adapted a larger and expanded role in education.  State funding is the critical funding element for most local school districts currently in Tennessee and the nation.

Officials said, "Yet there is another type of education spending that may seem small by comparison but is no less significant to the spender: Many teachers voluntarily use their own money to support their classroom work. When we found little in the literature on this subject, we decided to conduct a small informal survey to investigate the situation. Assuming that our survey sample (954) is representative, we estimate 61.4% of teachers across Tennessee are spending more than $250 out-of-pocket annually for their classrooms.

PET invited public school teachers across Tennessee to reply, both members and non-members. It emailed the survey to members and several Tennessee newspapers posted the survey online from March 12 to April 1. It did not attempt to identify geographic location. There were 954 respondents. 

What They Spent

























For additional information on this survey, additional graphics or pie charts and/or breakdown by grade groups, please email Bethany Bowman at or call 615 778-0803. 

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