CONGRESS: Extend tax deduction for $1.6 billion educators spend on classroom suppliesPosted November 24, 2014
7 commentsTAGS: educator tax deduction, U.S. Rep. David Reichert
By Amanda Litvinov
Pencils, paper, markers, scissors, notebooks. Glue, folders, ink cartridges, tissues, hand sanitizer.
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These are just a handful of things that educators buy with their own money so students have the supplies they need in the classroom.
In fact, educators collectively spent an astounding $1.6 billion of their own money in the 2012-13 school year alone on things their students needed and wouldn’t have otherwise had, according a survey by the National School Supply and Equipment Association.
Now, Congress must act to preserve a $250 tax credit for the 99.5 percent of all public school educators who put their own dollars toward classroom supplies and instructional materials.
Videos, CDs, instructional supplies, additional textbooks. Copy paper, math manipulatives, LCD projectors, charts, posters, computer carts, tables and chairs.
Educators bought all of those, too.
While the average teacher spends around $500 per year, 10 percent of teachers spend $1,000 or more.
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“I spend over $1,000 every year on classroom and student supplies,” Pennsylvania educator Christine Cameron commented in response to a query from EducationVotes.
Every year I try to spend less but since our supply budget has been cut every year I end up spending more just to have things like soap and tissues.
Some states have worked to restore K-12 education funding, but a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released last month shows that at least 30 states are spending less per pupil than before the recession. That means more than half of states are funded at pre-2008 levels when adjusting for inflation.
Around half of all education spending comes from state coffers, and funding shortages have a real and immediate effect on students. More than ever, educators are making up the difference where they can, paying for science lab kits, watercolor sets and even copy paper and ink in schools that have capped the number of copies each educator can make.
“Work-related expenses from tools to uniforms to computers are counted in other professions, why wouldn’t they be in ours?” asked Michigan educator Paulette Larson.
The educator tax credit was instituted in 2002 in recognition of educators’ generosity, and has long had bipartisan support. The deduction, which had been extended several times, expired at the end of 2013.
In the House, Rep. David Reichert (R-WA) has introduced the Teacher Tax Relief Act of 2014 (H.R. 5504), which would extend and make permanent the educator tax deduction for qualified expenses and professional development, as well as include an inflationary adjustment to the deduction amount, for eligible educators.
“As an early elementary educator, I need to provide manipulatives for hands-on learning, set up centers to differentiate my instruction to meet the needs of each student, and technology to keep up with the needs of today’s learners,” Larson said.
“I lose track of all the money I spend for my students on stickers, science supplies and bulletin board materials,” said Kirsten Ostrofsky from New York. “I do it because I want to, but don’t punish me by taking the educator tax deduction away.”
Books. Grade-level appropriate books. Books, books, books!
Books are one of the top purchases according to the educators we spoke with. Educators routinely reach into their own wallets not only for textbooks, but to stock their classrooms with a variety of books to inspire all of the unique children who learn there.
Food, winter coats, backpacks, volleyball uniforms, violins, and fieldtrip fees.
Educators even step in to help meet students’ basic needs and make sure they aren’t excluded from activities simply because their families can’t afford them. These don’t meet the definition of classroom expenses and don’t qualify for the educator tax deduction. But if Congress doesn’t act to extend the deduction, it will only increase the burden that educators take on to support each student’s needs.
“I don’t know a teacher who hasn’t spent his or her money on supplies, repairs, furniture, everything. It comes from our pockets, but also from our hearts,” commented recently retired teacher Donna Shores of Illinois. “Now I’m watching my daughter [also a teacher] do the same.”
Shores said she’s never regretted spending her own money on her students, but Congress should at least act to pass a tax extender package that includes the educator tax deduction.
Contact your members of Congress today to remind them that they have a chance to step up for educators, who step up for our students every day!