The National Education Association found that teachers spend $500 on average to furnish their classrooms with school supplies.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on August 8, 2022. It has since been updated.
There's a shortage of teachers across America, reflecting the low pay for teachers and inadequate investment in education. One teacher shared a video clip of her kindergarten class and how poorly it was furnished. The teacher, who goes by @progressivemama on TikTok, said the lack of investment in school was forcing teachers like her to spend their own money to help provide basic requirements in a classroom, such as books, shelves, and classroom staples, among other things. The video showed her panning the camera across the classroom, revealing empty shelves with no books and no proper chairs for kids to use. The video soon garnered more than 388,000 views and 35,600 likes.
"So frustrated going into my classroom today. No shelves for a classroom library. The desks are weird for a Kindergarten class. No cabinets. No rug. No leftover supplies or books. How much of my own money am I expected to spend?" she asked before sharing a wishlist and urging her followers to contribute items. The classroom had nothing but a few chairs, desks, a whiteboard and cabinets. Many teachers are relying on Amazon wishlists to procure the required items for their classrooms, reported DailyDot.
She then posted another video with an update that many had donated the items she required. The classroom was now full of items including books, alphabet charts and classroom supplies. "Feeling so much better after having TONS of donations," she wrote, before adding that she had also got a desk for herself. "The custodians at my school scrounged up some stuff for me and found me a teacher desk! They are so amazing!" she said.
The video even sparked a discussion online with some arguing that she should be thankful for the space she had while many argued that teachers and students deserve much better. “I’ve moved five times in 16 years and NEVER had such a clean, quality space to work with,” wrote one user. “That furniture is amazing! I guess everything is relative.” Another added, “That room is clean with nice desks, tables, and storage.” Many backed up the teacher, pointing out how the lack of investment in the education system was hollowing out the system and causing teachers to quit their jobs. "Our kiddos spend so much time in their classroom, I want it to be filled and have everything the teacher needs/wants to ROCK!" wrote one person. Another lauded her for taking the initiative to create a better classroom for students. "You are the embodiment of what we do. Turned a cold, empty room into a home. You should feel so proud," they wrote.
The National Education Association found that teachers spend $500 on average to furnish their classrooms and on school supplies. The association noted that nine out of 10 educators will not be reimbursed for their back-to-school purchases, whether it's pencils, notebooks, whiteboards, posters, or even software. "I do these things out of love for my kids," said Ryan Knight, a music teacher in Indiana. "I don’t ask for a refund from anyone. But I think the community ought to know the real amount of money teachers are putting into their classroom, school, and kids’ overall education."
Many teachers are leaving the industry citing lack of pay, infrastructure, the pandemic and even for being targeted by policies. National Education Association surveyed more than 2,700 teachers in June 2021 and found that 32% said they were leaving teaching earlier than planned because of the pandemic. "The political situation in the United States, combined with legitimate aftereffects of COVID, has created this shortage," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, reported The Washington Post.