Watercolor paints, musical instruments and test tubes. These aren't all found in the same classroom – but they're all used to help students flourish in classrooms around the country.
As the cost of school supplies increases and education funding decreases, teachers are left to find creative ways to provide students with the supplies and positive learning environments they need to thrive.
To help students succeed, teachers are filling the supply gap themselves. A May 2018 study by the National Center of Education Statistics1 found that 94% of public school teachers use their own money to buy school supplies. On average, they spend nearly $480 each year. Around 7% reported spending more than $1,000.
While it makes little difference whether they teach in urban, suburban or rural communities, the study found that teachers in high-poverty schools were more likely to spend personal money on school supplies. They are digging into their own pockets to set up kindergarten classrooms, update lab equipment for chemistry class and keep essential classroom supplies stocked throughout the school year.
That's why back-to-school shopping – the second-largest retail event in the U.S. – is as much for teachers as students.
Help provide tools to start the year right
The new school year is just around the corner. Here are three ways you can take action today to give kids – and teachers – a solid start:
- Adopt a classroom. Gather neighbors, colleagues or family members to adopt a classroom. Contact your local school district to find a classroom in your neighborhood or go to AdoptAClassroom.org to give money where it's needed most.
- Organize a school supply drive. Recruit work, church and book club buddies. Call a local school or district to find out what items are in short supply. Then organize, promote and collect. Every notebook and highlighter will be put to use!
- Build awareness. Strike up a conversation with a friend, neighbor or colleague, or simply share this article to bring attention to the lack of classroom essentials. Awareness often leads to action.
Give in a way that makes sense for you
Lead a Thrivent Action Team. Thrivent members can apply to lead a Thrivent Action Team to help stock classrooms. Contact your local schools to see what would be most helpful and then pull together a group of friends, family or church members for a fundraiser, school supply drive or other service activity.
Give charitably. The Kids In Need Foundation provides free school supplies to the students who need them. Make a personal donation to Kids In Need Foundation through our partnership with InFaith Foundation. Thrivent covers any related fees so 100% of your donation goes directly to the organization. Eligible Thrivent members can also direct Choice Dollars® to support this organization.
Not a member yet? Learn more about why Thrivent is different.
1 Public School Teacher Spending on Classroom Supplies (PDF), May 2018.