- A teacher in South Carolina is suing her school district, alleging that the district required her to pay for school supplies and work for free at school-related events.
- The lawsuit, obtained by WIS Digital, claims the school district violated state and federal law.
- The Department of Education found 94% of teachers pay for school supplies, in part due to diminishing public education investment.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Nearly every teacher pays out of pocket for school supplies — and now one is taking legal action.
Shannon Burgess, a teacher in South Carolina, sued her school district for allegedly requiring her to pay out of pocket for supplies and work for free at school-related events, according to a lawsuit obtained by WIS Digital News in Columbia, the state capitol.
In the suit, Burgess claimed she and her colleagues used their own money for school supplies, which the suit argues is a violation of state and federal law which requires the district to compensate workers for supplies bought for the school.
The suit alleges the Cherokee County School District violated a state law that requires compensation for teachers who pay for items which benefit the school. It is a class action suit, meaning Burgess’ attorney, John Reckenbeill, is seeking other teachers to come forward with related complaints. He told WIS Digital News he has so far received 20 similar complaints from South Carolina teachers.
“It has long been a pattern of practice throughout this nation and the state of South Carolina that school districts have unconscionably and impermissibly shifted operating costs of the classrooms directly on the financial backs of our Teachers,” the lawsuit reads.
Burgess also said she and her colleagues worked without pay at after-school sporting events to sell concessions. Burgess claimed the Cherokee County School District violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires overtime pay for extra hours worked.
Business Insider reached out to Burgess’ attorney and the Cherokee County School District for additional comment.
Nearly every teacher in the US reports paying out of pocket for school supplies.
A 2018 report from the Department of Education found 94% of teachers say they spend their own money on school supplies. The Department stated teachers spend an average of $479 on school supplies, but some teachers from Mississippi and Pennsylvania told Business Insider they spend as much as $2,000 a year.
Teachers across the country are speaking out against the lack of pay in the profession. In August, teachers used a viral campaign called #clearthelists to crowdsource money to pay for supplies on their Amazon wishlists. Teachers in Chicago — the nation’s third-largest public school district — went on strike in October, calling for higher pay and more public funding in education.
Diminshed funding and low pay contribute to teachers’ need to purchase school supplies out-of-pocket.
State funding dropped $166 per student from 2008 to 2016, and half of states still spend less on public schools than before the recession. Teachers make less on average in inflation-adjusted dollars than they made in 1990, and they earn 19% less than other professions which require a bachelor’s degree.