MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — Teacher salaries at many schools are not keeping up with inflation. And many teachers are dipping into their own pocket for supplies.

Step inside The Learning Circle and Mary Esther Reed will be happy to help. She has owned the school supply store for two decades.

“A teacher has to have lots of tricks in her bag, or his bag, to be able to make sure children are successful,” said Reed.

She sees first-hand the amount of money teachers spend on supplies.

“I think for a lot of people, they don’t realize that teachers are doing this. I think you would go out and ask the majority of people on the street, and they would think that teachers are being provided everything that they need to educate the children — and that’s just not the case.”

Teachers spent an average of $750 on school supplies in the 2020-2021 school year. And one-third spent more than $1,000, according to

“I see that so many times when teachers come in here, they’ll say, ‘oh, I can only do this amount this paycheck until I get my next paycheck’ to provide their students in their classroom the best education they can.”

And oftentimes, teacher salaries are not keeping up with cost of living. In Middle Tennessee, Williamson County is the highest at $58,863, followed by Rutherford County ($57,333), Metro ($54,926), Sumner County ($54,505), Wilson County ($54,485), Robertson County ($51,473), and Cheatham County ($49,857).

Reed knows what these teachers are feeling. She taught kindergarten for nearly a decade.

“I remember walking into my first classroom when it was my classroom, and there was a rocking chair and a couple of tubs that had some blocks and some manipulatives — and that was pretty much it. And I knew to provide the students the type of education that I wanted to provide them, I was going to have to figure out some way to make sure I had those items.”

She said it’s not all about markers and paper; teachers are supplementing their curriculum and buying supplies that help the fast learners stay engaged, and those struggling to understand better.

“My dream scenario would be that teachers had to spend no money out of their pockets that everything they needed to provide for every student within their classroom was able to be funded through the school system.”

Teachers have had a little help thrown their way recently. The tax deduction for teacher supplies has gone up. They can now deduct $300 when filing taxes.