Teachers sound off on potentially losing classroom supply tax deduction

The tax plan approved by the House would eliminate the “educator expense deduction” which allows teachers and administrators to deduct up to $250 for out-of-pocket expenses used in their classrooms and schools: items such as books, school supplies, decorations and computer software. Professional development expenses are also included in the deduction, which was made permanent by Congress in 2015. By contrast, the Senate is considering doubling the education tax deduction to $500, but it’s anyone’s guess how this will come out.

Educators are very concerned about the possibility of losing this tax deduction, especially while the GOP tax plan provides very large deductions for wealthy individuals and corporations. Below is some of the reaction we have seen in recent days. First is a letter from La Crosse teacher Jill Gorell, followed by comments submitted on our Facebook page:

Jill Gorell, 8th Grade Teacher, La Crosse Education Association member:

Being a teacher means spending a lot of personal funds on students and the classroom. I cringe when I see the “end of the year” receipts indicating how much I have spent on my students. It’s overwhelming. Adding to the equation, I’m a single mother, as well as a teacher, who is trying to take care of my own children and their expenses. It’s not easy.

I spend money every day on my 8th grade students. I am constantly providing food for my at-risk and students of poverty who complain on a daily basis how hungry they are. With that, I have a container full of granola bars and other healthy snacks for them to “secretly” grab when their stomachs are growling. In addition to having a bin of snacks, I oftentimes pay off debt on overdue lunch accounts so students can eat lunch. On occasion, I have purchased clothing (such as socks, underwear, and bras) for students who have been at shelters the night before school and are embarrassed because the clothes they are wearing aren’t appropriate or just don’t fit. I provide feminine products to my female students and I’ve been known to give money to students who cannot afford to pay for a school field trip.

Who buys Kleenex, pencils, paper, book bags, notebooks, pens, pencil sharpeners, markers, bus tokens, folders, calculators, and poster boards for the classroom and students? I do. I do this because my students come to school without materials.

These expenses are paid for by me – a hard working single mom who’s a caring and compassionate educator. I cannot imagine “not” helping my students. I do this because it’s the right thing to do.

Eliminating the teacher expense “tax deduction” is beyond hurtful, disappointing, and quite simply a slap in every educator’s face. Educators personally spend hundreds, even thousands, of dollars every year on their students. To eliminate the $250 deduction is yet another attack on the generosity of teachers.

Below are some of the Facebook comments we received when we asked educators how elimination of this tax deduction would affect them and their students (read more here):

Entire comment: It will become the books for my classroom library I won’t buy, the pens and pencils, folders and notebooks I give to my students who can’t buy them. The treats I buy to reward them for reaching their goals. The small tokens of my appreciation that I give them to show that I care that they are reading their goals.

More of this comment: This is another mostly symbolic gesture by those in power to show us how little they value our profession and working people in general. Most of us spend 3-4 times the $250 they allow us to deduct from our income.

Entire comment: I buy the newest popular books for my class. The books I have are older and in order to engage students and help them fall in love with reading. Books aren’t cheap. I have purchased bookshelves, the type from Walmart. I buy art supplies and basic supplies. The deduction makes me feel that at least someone acknowledges it is a necessity. The amount should go up not be eliminated. This tax plan is for the middle class?????????? Really????