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Teachers Spend Hundreds of Dollars a Year on School Supplies. That’s a Problem.

The current school funding system in Wisconsin is broken. That’s a fact. And as a result, spending their own money on school supplies is for teachers as integral a back-to-school ritual as classroom seating arrangements, new lesson plans, meeting parents, etc.  

Wisconsin’s chronic underfunding of public schools has led educators to rely on their own pockets – to the tune of approximately $750 every yeari. To put that into perspective, that adds up to more than $1.5M in annual teacher out-of-pocket spending for the Madison Metropolitan School District – and that figure is an astounding 25% more than in 2015ii

Undoubtedly, many teachers spend their own money on classroom supplies out of love for their kids and a desire to provide an equitable education for all. But with rising inflation rates, an equitable education is coming at a higher price tag. Meanwhile, a recent Washington Post article declares “America is facing a catastrophic teacher shortageiii,“ in part because many teachers feel underappreciated, underpaid, and overworked.  

While this is our current reality, we are not inclined to accept this fate—our students and educators deserve better.   

The Teacher Support Network is one of our responses to ensure all students have the learning materials they need, while helping alleviate the personal spending of our teachers.  

We have created a remarkably effective and efficient system, partnering with local business EZ Office Products and the school district, which allows schools to shop online and order exactly what they need, when they need it, throughout the entire school year with a budget provided by the Madison Public Schools Foundation.   A hallmark of our program is our responsiveness to evolving needs. Last year, we made PE/recess equipment, winter outerwear, snacks, art materials, and hygiene products available, all based on school feedback. We have built a system that nimbly meets needs as they arise.   

The Teacher Support Network is making a difference for Madison’s public schools and families. We need your help to continue this positive impact on our schools. Your gift will allow shopping budgets to increase, teachers to spend less of their own money, and more resources to be available to students most in need.   

Please give generously today to allow us to continue to meet the critical supply needs of our students and teachers. 

i. How Much do Teachers Spend on Supplies?,, 2021.
ii. Infographic: Recent AAC Survey Results on Teacher Spending,, 2015.
iii. ‘Never seen it this bad’: America faces catastrophic teacher shortage, Washington Post, 2022.

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