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How Maine teachers are preparing for the upcoming school year amid record inflation

Teachers often need to dip into their own wallets to buy school supplies. But as costs increase amid record inflation, the back-to-school pinch is tighter than ever.

LEVANT, Maine — A new school year is on the horizon, which means back-to-school shopping for families and as well as teachers who are preparing their classrooms.

The U.S. Department of Education reported in 2018 that teachers spent nearly $500 out of their own pockets on classroom supplies.

Some teachers find a way to curb some of the cost by reaching out to the community for help. Lauren Arnold and Katrice Hinton both teach at Suzanne M. Smith Elementary School in Levant, and they said they make Amazon wish lists at the start of each school year.

Lauren Arnold, a second-grade teacher, said she posts her classroom wish list on Facebook every year on Aug. 1. 

"That wish list probably adds up to about $200 that I'm saving because people in the community are willing to help," Arnold said.

She said she typically matches her school budget of $300 by spending her own money to buy extra supplies for her classroom.

"I do end up spending a lot of my own money on pencils, markers, crayons. ... I have to prioritize around here," Arnold said.

These are extra supplies her school budget and even some families may not be able to afford.

"Things are going up, and families unfortunately not all can afford it, so I try to get extra backpacks, extra clothes," Arnold said.

Down the hall, Katrice Hinton teaches kindergarten. Her closet, she said, is full of things -- paint, craft supplies, colored pencils, holiday decorations -- that were either donated or bought with her own money.

She said she's created an Amazon wish list for five of the seven years she's taught, and each year it's saved her more than $150.

"It makes the beginning of the school year and the school year itself a little bit easier," Hinton said.

Items on her wish list vary each year, depending on the needs of her new group of students.

"It warms my heart to see that people are giving not only to me but kiddos they don't even know," Hinton said.

The National Retail Federation reports 68 percent of back-to-school shoppers have seen higher prices in clothes and accessories and school supplies.

Every year Arnold and Hinton prepare extra supplies in case families don't have the means to get every item on the school supply list, especially this year.

"It gets pretty expensive, so I think it'll be more of a problem than we realize," Arnold said.

Arnold said she doesn't mind preparing extra, adding that it's just part of the job.

"That's what I'm here for," Arnold said. "It's not just the math, the reading, the writing. I'm here to support you."

Katrice Hinton's wish list is available through this link.

Lauren Arnold's wish list is available through this link.

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