Trends from the National 2020 Classroom Supply Budget Survey

Posted on Categories Public Funds
Teacher Survey Trends

If you’ve been living in a cave the last year you might have missed these two themes dominating education headlines: 

  1. Teachers striking across the country for better (pay, support, respect..the list goes on) and
  2. The necessity for teachers to dig into their own pockets to supply their classrooms

ClassWallet has been surveying district finance administrators around the country over the last couple of years about classroom supplies, and here are the results from our most recent survey. 

The good: most districts have a classroom supply budget

87% of districts in states that don’t have a state supply stipend do have a budget specific for classroom supplies aside from larger, uniform purchases like curricula and technology. The fact that the majority of them recognize teachers and classrooms need funds for the day to day items that impact student learning is encouraging.

Purchase requisitions were the primary method that teachers could request items for their classroom. Responses from states that have a classroom stipend also mirrored this trend. (Note: for clarity we removed ClassWallet customer responses from this question.)

Graph of distribution processes for states without classroom supply stipends

Responses from states without classroom supply stipends

graph of which processes stipend states use to purchase classroom supplies

Responses from states with classroom supply stipends

Room for improvement: 1 out of 4 teachers do not have access to purchase or request items for their classroom

While it’s promising that this number is down from the 44% who responded the same way last year, (in states without stipends) the fact that 25% of these teachers have no meaningful input into what supplies reach their students reflects that teacher agency still has a way to go in the current school atmosphere.

We know from a district supply purchase analysis that when teachers are given the ability to select items to support their instruction, there’s a huge variety in the items they buy. While that’s a good reason to empower teachers with these types of purchases, a primary contributor to this restriction is…

The sad: Most of these districts don’t think it’s a good idea to give teachers access to classroom supply funds

While the 65% of districts who think this way is actually a drastic improvement from last year’s survey in which 87% of respondents gave the same response, the notion that roughly two thirds of these district administrators reject this concept is a bit disheartening. Fueling that perspective is the 58% of that same group aren’t even sure that teachers would value having access to a classroom supply budget. However, based on our work with thousands of teachers, with confidence we can tell you that yes, they do value the autonomy, trust, and respect that having any sort of budget and purchase authority implies. In order to change the headlines, districts need to continue to change the culture paradigm in their schools to empower teachers and treat them as valued employees.