Out of Pocket Spending

We asked three teachers to tell us the back stories of their classrooms. Here’s an insight of what not everybody sees when they step through the door.

From the posters on the walls to the pencils in the cup holder, teachers put much effort into their classroom environment. According to an article by NEA, well over 90 percent of teachers spend their own money on school supplies and other items needed to better their students’ education. It’s no secret that the biggest contributors to the classroom environment are the teachers’ wallets.  


Jamie Sandhu, who has been an educator for 31 years and is currently teaching Spanish in the Foreign Language Department at West, allowed us into her classroom and expressed her love for her students and her room.


I try to make every student feel loved in my classroom.. and I want so badly for them to know that I care deeply for them

— Jamie Sandhu, Spanish Teacher

In 2022, it was shown from a DontMessWithTaxes article that teachers spent $3 billion of their own money on school supplies and other necessities for the greater good of their students. English teacher, John Cooper, stated that “$200 a year is what I can deduct from my taxes, now it’s 250.” This is huge considering teachers are already one of the most underpaid and appreciated among a wide range of professions. When you are already being underpaid, you shouldn’t have to worry about how much money you can risk to set aside for your classroom.


As the pandemic hit, the shortage of public school teachers was a huge concern in the nation. The lack of teachers that was already set in place before the pandemic struck is still occurring. With heavy inflation, additional pressure falls on the teachers shoulder. The question of “Do my students have everything they need to thrive?” becomes more and more prevalent as the ongoing drawback continues. With this, teachers are constantly innovating and thinking up clever ways to decorate their classrooms, even before they started teaching. “When I was in college, there was always a poster sale out in front of the library at Illinois State University,” said John Cooper. “They’d sell posters for your dorm room and then I kind of was like, well whatever classroom I end up having is going to kind of have a dorm room vibe.”  


Teachers have often voiced their request for new classroom amenities. For example, Cooper talked about how tough the process of getting stable furniture for his room was. “It took me five years to get new chairs. A chair broke every week and I kept asking for new chairs and I must have had 60 new chairs over four years in my classroom just because [they] kept breaking.” 


Some teachers on the other hand believe that they are getting just the right amount of support they need. West High IJAG Specialist, Josh Kidman, who has been coaching at west for nine years and teaching for five, sees that the ICCSD is doing an exceptional job of taking care of classroom needs. 


I feel like if there was something we wanted to add, we could go ahead and ask for [it]

— Josh Kidman, IJAG Specialist


According to the ICCSD’s Budget at a Glance for the 2019-2020 school year, of the $186,498,919  in the general spending fund, 84% of it went towards employee costs. The district does seem to be trying to dedicate a good amount of money to its employees, but is it enough? 


It’s clear that the issue of district funding for classroom amenities is very opinionated and changes from person to person. As all opinions are valid, two facts still remain the same. The classroom environment can affect the students and the teachers immensely and second, West High teachers put a lot of effort into those classrooms.