Classroom economics, OMG!

I was trying to explain to someone the classroom and the financials behind the classroom. I’m not sure they understood.

At the end of the day, this topic is my biggest beef with being a public school teacher.

I’ve learned the administrators don’t really impact the specifics of what and how I teach on a class-by-class or a day-by-day basis. The District doesn’t bother me. State standards? Nope. Standardized testing? Whatever.


The classroom

I am required – required – to decorate my classroom. I have to have posters and student work on the walls. I have various items that are “best practices” such as a list of graduation requirements and similar items. I have two bulletin boards that need to be made.

A lot of this stuff needs to be changed out a couple times during the school year.


On an almost daily basis, custodial staff sweeps and empties my trash. Once every couple of weeks they mop my floor. That is the full extent of their cleaning in my classroom.

I have 26 Mac computers. The screens have to be cleaned regularly. The tables have to be dusted and wiped. The windows need to be cleaned occasionally. The whiteboard needs to be cleaned regularly.

I have to do all that or in some cases, get the students to do some of it.

But what burns my bottom is that the cost of the supplies to fully clean the room come out of my pocket.


I typically have about 200 students per year. They get sick. They get germs.

I have to provide hand sanitizer and tissue. I have to provide disinfectant wipes to clean the keyboards and mouses. Baby wipes are good to have around.

With 200 kids, it is hard to keep colds and flus under control, but it is important. I can’t teach a student if he or she is out for a week with the flu. I can’t teach if I’m too doped up on cold medicine.

The nurse is nice and helpful but has limited stuff. So I also keep a couple of bags of cough lozenges, some ibuprofen, band aids, alcohol wipes, and other similar items in the room, because, well, crap happens.


Title I school. Hi poverty rate. Pens. Pencils. Colored Pencils. Sketch Pads. Sharpeners. And the list goes on there.

My issue is this. For all of the above, to meet the needs of around 200 students for around 9 months, I’m given $200. That’s the standard for Metro Nashville Public School teachers. That is $200 for the entire year for all the students … not per student.

Then, there are the fundraisers. And the kids who legitimately can’t afford things. I’ve purchased uniforms, paid for field trips, paid for entry fees, and so much more.

Now piss me off

My Digital Arts and Design program is a Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. As such, I receive a budget each year for CTE needs. This budget is many thousands of dollars.

With this money, we started the program with a $70,000 Mac lab. Each Mac was equipped with the full Adobe Creative Suites and they are kept fully updated. Photography and illustration are significant standards in the program, so we have purchased many thousands of dollars of camera equipment and a number of digital illustration tablets.

I can use the CTE money to buy $20,000 worth of photography equipment, but I can’t use it to buy lens cleaners. I can buy a huge Mac lab but this money cannot be used to buy screen cleaner.

Every year I’m encouraged to spend the entire budget, but I can’t use it on some very much needed items like computer cleaning supplies or camera cleaning supplies. If I could use some of it for that, it would not solve all problems, but it would help the $200 go a bit farther.

My embarrassment

We haven’t gotten into things like lesson plan books, and subscriptions to online services that are helpful to the class. Those easily add more than $100 more to the total I spend.

Each year, I prepare a “wish list” on Amazon (I am not sharing it here as that is not the purpose of the post – and many items have been purchased, but contact me if you want to look at what’s left). It is all stuff I’m going to use in my classroom. And I share that list on Facebook and via other outlets. I’m lucky that family and friends purchase an awful lot of the items for me, and it saves me quite a bit of out-of-pocket expense.

But isn’t it embarrassing? A teacher (and I’m not alone – where do you think I got the Amazon idea?) goes on Amazon and makes a wish list and asks people to help. In a country that says it values education, that says education is the foundation for everything from getting out of poverty to innovation to becoming a physician, I have to scrounge for fucking cleaning supplies.

Note: A version of this article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Second note: Since publishing this originally, I’ve changed schools and content areas.

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