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  • Writer's pictureTexas Star Alliance


Everyone has probably had a job that at some point that was made easier by money they spent out of their own pocket. For me, it was buying a Walkman (if you're under 35 and reading this just google it), to make mowing lawns go faster in the Texas summer heat. It was no small capital outlay for a 12 year old making $15 to $25 a lawn. I could have gotten by without it. But for the tens of thousands of teachers returning to classrooms around the country this fall, the outlay isn’t optional, and it’s only growing.

Teachers are spending between $480 and $1,200, depending on their state, according to 2015-2016 data from the Economic Policy Institute. In Tennessee, for example, teachers spend between $1,000 and $1,500 during a school year on supplies, according to data from the Tennessee Education Association. Changes to the federal tax code during the last presidential administration are already resulting in an additional increase as some pre-existing deductions were eliminated. However, teachers CAN deduct some COVID related expenses. You can read more here.

Kira Dyer's 8th Grade Classroom at SSMS in Dripping Springs, TX

To be clear, this money isn't being spent to make the work more comfortable, like my Walkman. It’s being spent on necessary supplies to create the learning environment teachers need to educate students. This often includes necessities like snacks, pencils, paper, and clothing that lower-income students may not be able to bring to school with them. As Kira Dyer, a teacher in my son’s school district, put it, “Unfortunately, teachers spend way more of their money than we should. However, even though we do put a lot into our rooms financially, I’d like to see it as an investment in all the students that we have the privilege of teaching every year.” Her selfless sentiment was echoed by other teachers I spoke to like Rebecca Smart who shared “Every year I spend hundreds (and likely more!) making my classroom a place where kids can learn in lots of different ways. Clearing my list would allow for yet another way that I can implement FUN tools to help my kids learn history while making it relevant. Clearing my list would mean that my STUDENTS have the best experience possible.”

While teachers have been supplementing necessary items for their students for as long as schools have existed, the need is growing at an alarming rate. Many have turned to technology, using wish lists online with vendors like where parents, friends, and community members can help them with their purchasing.

Keri Dotson's 2nd Grade classroom at SSES in Dripping Springs, TX

In 2019, a private Facebook group was created to help #clearthelist as an effort to alleviate the cost to teachers. The essence of the movement is to "clear a teacher's list” by purchasing all the items they have posted. With a sibling who teaches in a historically underprivileged school, I became aware of the movement early on. I have made purchases for her wish list, for my son's classes, and for friends who are teachers.

But have been blessed to see my practice grow, and I've chosen to pay that blessing forward. So this year, I will #clearthelist for one lucky teacher who engages with my professional social media presence.

What does that mean? Follow my professional pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. Then comment on this blog post with a quick note about where you teach, how long you've been teaching, and what subjects you have taught during your career. (On Twitter, you can tweet me this info.) Include a link to your wish list.

I am also challenging my colleagues and peers, lobbyists and lawyers, to #clearthelist, too. So, I'll be tagging the lobbyists and lawyers I know in my social media posts, and you should do the same for the ones you know. When you do, use the hashtag #lobbyistsandlawyersclearthelist.

Kira Dyer is an 8th-grade science teacher at Sycamore Springs Middle School and Chair of the Science Department. You can find her Wishlist here.

Rebecca Smart is a US History teacher at Sycamore Springs Middle School and is starting her 13th year of teaching! You can find her Wishlist here.

Now for the fine print:

1) One winner will be selected from all entries on Sept. 1st.

2) Total list cost cannot exceed $500 for any single winner.

3) Recipient must be current teachers and must verify their information prior to the prize award.

4) Recipient must agree to share a photo of their classroom (respecting campus, district, and state PII requirements) to be shared on my social media platforms.

5) Recipient will be drawn on Sept. 1, 2021. All entries must be submitted prior to 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 31, 2021.

6) Recipient must reside within the United States.

7) Sponsor reserves the right to update or alter the rules of this promotion as necessitated by both foreseeable factors and unforeseen eventualities.

8) If I receive 1,000 unique new social media likes, follows, shares, connections, I will select two winners.

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