WASHINGTON, DC — Needing to buy school supplies, trinkets to use as student rewards, and even food and clothing for their youthful charges, most teachers Jill Wagner knows are spending far more on class fees as the $250 they can deduct on their taxes each year.
“We spend a lot out of pocket, no matter what school system you’re in, no matter what district income level, because we care about the kids,” said Wagner, an English teacher at Independence Local Schools. .
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, this week joined U.S. Representative Anthony Brown, a Democrat from Maryland, in introducing legislation that would increase that tax deduction to $1,000 and continue to index it to inflation. It would also broaden the definition of who is eligible to collect the tax deduction so that counselors, principals and other helpers who spend money on student education expenses can collect it.
Brown, who chairs the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, says he hopes to attach the proposal to any tax legislation that may come out of the House of Representatives or the Senate. He said a recent Department of Education study showed that 94% of public school teachers spend hundreds of dollars of their own money each year on school supplies, and about 10% spend more than $1,000.
He told reporters that teachers shouldn’t have to dip into their too-small checks just to do their jobs, and that they should be allowed to deduct more of those costs from their taxes so they can focus on raising children. He noted that state spending on education has plummeted in recent decades, forcing teachers to pay more out of pocket to ensure children have the tools they need to learn.
He said the $250 figure has been part of the tax code for a long time and hasn’t been updated in years because “there’s no really wealthy interest group advocating for it. “.