OPINION: Educators Reaching into Their Own Pockets
By Matt Moseley
Because Colorado short-changes public education funding by close to a billion dollars per year, the Colorado Education Association wanted to know: How much do educators spend of their own money on their students and classrooms?
The answer is shocking.
CEA revealed that the organization surveyed over 2,200 educators from 107 school districts in January and responses concluded that, on average, members spent approximately $656 a year out of their own pockets for students, totaling about $23 million per year. (Note: CEA arrived at $23 million by taking the average of $656 per year multiplied by the number of CEA members.) The money was spent on items, such as books, pencils, tape, glue, binders/folders, snacks, toothpaste and other personal care items, teaching materials, lunch money and field trips. See report here.
“What this report shows is the extraordinary commitment teachers have for their students and the extraordinary deficiency of resources – and how educators are having to fill the gap,” said CEA President Kerrie Dallman. “While corporations are getting millions in tax breaks, educators are spending their limited salary dollars on classroom supplies. Colorado consistently underfunds public education, and this groundbreaking research shows why the state must increase funding for public education.”
Other takeaways from the report included data that reflected disparities in out-of-pocket spending. For example, in some more affluent districts educators reported spending less money in out-of-pocket expenses than educators in districts with fewer resources. The report also shows that those who have eleven or more years in their professions spent more on average than their younger counterparts. However, even educators in their first five years spent over $600 per year out-of-pocket.
Educators gathered this week in the Colorado State Capitol rotunda for a Lobby Day to talk to legislators about the severe impacts of underfunding public education and the growing crisis of a shortage of qualified teachers and to present invoices to the General Assembly for the past due amount.
Colorado public schools and students lose revenue every year to tax incentives that support large corporations; over the last 10 years those incentives have added up to over a billion dollars. Four of the five largest companies headquartered in Colorado have received large tax subsidies totaling more than $31 million and Colorado has lost more than $121 million in revenue to subsidies for the oil and gas industry alone.
“This research shows that educators are deeply committed to the success of their students and communities. So much so, that every year they spend money out of their pockets,” Dallman added. “Colorado will not solve its educator shortage crisis until our state fully meets student needs and takes that unfair financial burden off of educators.”