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Thanking Educators for Their Generosity

House bill would extend tax deduction for educators who dig into their own pockets for school resources

By Kevin Hart

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 -- As budget cuts have created strains in schools throughout the country, many educators have opened their own wallets to make sure students continue to have the classroom resources they need. Now, a bill before the U.S. House of Representatives seeks to recognize this generosity by expanding a tax deduction for elementary and secondary school educators who buy supplies for their schools.

The Teacher Tax Relief Act of 2009 (H.R. 3758) is a bipartisan bill sponsored by Dave Reichert (R-WA) and co-sponsored by Barton Gordon (D-TN), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), and John Tanner (D-TN).  It would increase to $500 the annual tax deduction that educators can take for purchasing school supplies and for professional development. The bill would make the deduction permanent.

NEA has written a letter of support for the bill, pointing out that the legislation will "make a real difference for many educators, who often must sacrifice other personal needs in order to pay for classroom supplies."

NEA members often spend several hundred dollars a year purchasing supplies for their classrooms, and this year the need was especially acute. As education budgets nationwide were slashed, educators were placed in the difficult position of needing to purchase more than ever for their classrooms, while still feeling the pinch of the recession themselves.

At the start of the school year, educators from across the country debated on NEA Today's Facebook page whether they would be able to spend as much on supplies this year. Some said the recession would make such spending impossible, while others said they would continue to give generously for the sake of their students.

“I feel I have to do what it takes to make my students learn, even if it means providing them with notebooks and pencils every day,” said Sheron Joseph, who teaches in Bridgeport, Conn.

Other teachers said that, while they will continue to spend during the recession, what they purchase is changing.

“In the past, I've bought things for my students, such as books or gift certificates to the local book store, to put books into the hands of students and encourage them to read more,” said Diana Marcus, a fifth-grade teacher from Burlington, Mass. “I've purchased far more consumables in the past, and now I'm reluctant to purchase anything that won't stay in the classroom with my name on it from one year to the next.”

The Teacher Tax Relief Act of 2009 is currently before the House Committee on Ways and Means.


Track the Teacher Tax Relief Act of 2009