With inflation, purchasing school supplies can be a challenge, and teachers are increasingly having to dip into their own wallets to supply their students.
A teacher at Scappoose Adventist School knows buying school supplies can be a struggle for educators — especially when they have their own life expenses to handle.
Riza Estores, who started working at the Scappoose school this past August, teaches a 19-student multigrade class with both first- and second-graders.
Estores' husband and pet dogs still live in the Philippines, her home country. The Philippines, a former U.S. protectorate, is one of the largest sources of overseas immigration to the United States.
Estores sends a portion of the money she earns as schoolteacher back to her husband in the Philippines. That's not an uncommon arrangement for immigrants living in the United States — wages are higher here than in many less developed countries — who still have family in their country of origin.
Estores hopes to have her husband join her soon in Oregon.
"The long-term plan is for my husband and I to stay here in the United States for good, as I will hopefully be teaching at Scappoose Adventist School for a long time," Estores told the Spotlight.
There are things to do first. Her husband is working to finish building a house in the Philippines, which Estores' remittances are helping to support. They plan to leave their dogs with a family friend.
Even once Estores and her husband are reunited, she expects to continue remitting money.
"We will continue to send money back to the Philippines, as we own a café and frequently run charity events," she said.
While she has her own expenses to take care of, Estores wants to raise awareness of the burden that has been placed on educators throughout Oregon and beyond.
"At Scappoose Adventist School, many of our students' parents have been able to provide the needed school supplies for their children," she said. "However, I realize this is not the case for every school."
Estores continued, "For educators more generally, there are many materials that make for a better classroom experience that people don't realize often come out of the teacher's own pocket."
She cited examples such as notebooks and organizational materials.
"Even pens and paper are typically not provided at many schools, which can add up to over $800 for a given school year," Estores pointed out.
While the school supply problem may not be acute at her school, Estores said, "We are an anomaly compared to the rest of the country, and even the state. Many other schools are certainly having challenges with getting supplies, especially with the recent rise in costs of materials."
Estores said one report suggests that teachers in Oregon will spend a collective $25 million out-of-pocket when purchasing school supplies.
WorldRemit is a platform that helps send Estores' money back to her husband in the Philippines.
Jorge Godinez Reyes, head of the Americas at WorldRemit, said the problem is worldwide.
"For teachers, preparing for the school year often means using their own money to purchase school supplies," he said. "To make matters worse, high rates of inflation have made school supplies more costly, in addition to the shift in day-to-day items, putting added pressure on the wallets of teachers around the world."
Reyes continued, "Recent data from WorldRemit found that the average cost of basic educational needs per child in the United States is up nearly 7 percent compared to last year."
Katy Wagner, principal at nearby St. Helens High School, said at least in some cases, educators at private schools actually face higher out-of-pocket costs than at public schools.
"In public schools, school supplies that are used as part of the core curriculum are often purchased using general funds that are allocated and budgeted by the school administration," she told the Spotlight.
Wagner added, "Public schools do everything we can to ensure that teachers do not pay out-of-pocket for school-related expenses. Private school funding may not have the same budget or reimbursement process as public schools."
The IRS does provide eligible educators with an "educator expense deduction" on their personal income taxes, recognizing that educators have historically purchased supplies for the classroom, Wagner noted. That deduction was recently increased from $250 per year to $300 per year.
If you are interested in helping at Scappoose Adventist School, which serves preschool through the eighth grade, you can visit the school's website, sasonline.org, and locate links where you can donate and provide supplies on an Amazon wish list.
"Of course, any educator's main priority is to deliver the best quality instruction for their students," Estores said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.