Colorado teachers spend hundreds on their classrooms because state won’t, union survey says

Colorado teachers spend an average of $656 of their own money on their students and classrooms each year, according to the state’s largest teachers union.

A teacher reads to her students at the Cole Arts and Science Academy in Denver. (Photo by Nic Garcia/Chalkbeat)

By Melanie AsmarChalkbeat

Colorado teachers spend an average of $656 of their own money on their students and classrooms each year, according to the state’s largest teachers union.

The Colorado Education Association reported surveying more than 2,000 of its members about their spending in 2017. The results were released Wednesday, several weeks into a legislative session in which state lawmakers are poised once again to debate how much money to spend on schools and how to remedy a teacher shortage that’s hitting rural districts especially hard.

The teachers union advocates for the state to spend more on K-12 education. But in the state budget process, schools compete with a range of needs, including transportation, which Republicans have named their top priority this session.

“We don’t expect that a doctor would pay for prescriptions or copays for their patients, or that firefighters would have to pay for their own water hoses,” the Colorado Education Association wrote in a short report summarizing the survey results. “Then why is it that educators must consistently use their own limited resources to do their jobs?”

A total of 2,141 educators from 107 of Colorado’s 178 school districts answered the survey, the union said. The survey asked teachers, bus drivers, and other school workers how much they spent out-of-pocket on supplies without getting reimbursed, and what they bought.

The findings include:

  • Only nine educators said they spent nothing. The average was $656 per year.
  • Educators in wealthier districts reported spending less than educators in poorer districts. For example, educators in the suburban Cherry Creek district reported spending an average of $499, while educators in more rural Greeley reported spending an average of $991 per year.
  • Pens and pencils, incentives and rewards, and supplemental teaching materials were among the most common items bought by educators with their own money.
  • Experienced teachers reported spending more money than new teachers.

The report ends with a plea for more school funding.

The amount of money Colorado spends per student consistently ranks among the lowest in the country. Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposed 2018-19 budget would increase that amount by about $343 per student, which is roughly 4.5 percent.

Read the entire report below.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.