The Proposed GOP Tax Bill Could Hurt Teachers

“As educators spend more and more of their own funds each year to buy basic essentials, Republican leaders chose to ignore the sacrifice made by those who work in our nation’s public schools.”

When I was a middle school English teacher, I’d spend my off hours hanging out with my friends and family, planning lessons, and buying things for my classes. While most schools provide the basics – copy paper, whiteboard erasers, etc. – I always needed something for my students.

One time, I bought 25 novels so my kids could read Walter Dean Myers’ “Monster” as a class. Another, I purchased a pair of speakers because the audio from my laptop was too low to reach the students in the back of the room. Most of my money, however, went toward everyday items that the school just didn’t, or couldn’t, provide – cleaning supplies, markers, extra pencils, construction paper, and snacks for the students who experienced food insecurity at home. While I spent the money willingly, I knew that come tax time I’d get a little of it back, thanks to the educator expense deduction.

But all that could be changing. According to the new tax plan introduced by congressional Republicans this week, the educator deduction, which allows teachers to recoup up to $250 in classroom expenses, would be eliminated. Though it’s hard to imagine how the tiny amount would make a big dent in the bill’s bottom line – particularly since lawmakers are also proposing to slash corporate tax rates from 35% to 20% and completely eliminate the estate tax by 2024 while also eliminating key credits and deductions for college students – it’s just one more blow to teachers, who spend nearly $1,000 a year out of their own pockets on their classrooms.

Both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have issued scathing rebukes to the proposed plan.

“As educators spend more and more of their own funds each year to buy basic essentials, Republican leaders chose to ignore the sacrifice made by those who work in our nation’s public schools to make sure students have adequate books, pencils, paper and art supplies,” NEA president Lily Eskelsen García said in a press release.

AFT president Randi Weingarten echoed Eskelsen García’s thoughts. “Families need a tax code that is fair and doesn’t rig the economy further in favor of corporations and the rich. But Republicans have come up with a bill that does the exact opposite, handing out massive tax breaks and cutting services to help their wealthy friends,” she argued. “Just do the math. They are paying for tax giveaways for big corporations by destroying the state and local deductions that middle-class families rely on to fund their local public schools, hospitals, and police and fire departments.”

Republicans may control all three branches of government, but the proposed tax bill isn’t a done deal just yet. Some influential lobbying groups have already come out against it, and according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, 50% of Americans oppose the plan.

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