By Katie Reilly
November 9, 2017

Educators who spend hundreds of dollars out of their own pocket to buy school supplies would no longer be eligible for a tax deduction under the GOP tax reform bill, and the proposal is drawing fierce criticism from teachers’ advocates.

Under current law, teachers are eligible for a tax deduction of up to $250 for money spent on classroom supplies.

“Will a teacher in my district who buys pens, pencils, paper for his students be able to deduct these costs from his tax returns under this plan?” Washington Rep. Suzan DelBene asked on Monday, at a markup hearing for the proposed GOP tax bill, which she described as “morally bankrupt.”

Thomas Barthold, chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, confirmed that the tax plan would repeal the deduction for teacher expenses. The bill has drawn criticism from Democrats and teachers’ associations, who argue it will further burden teachers who already spend a significant amount of their own money on their classrooms.

“Under the Republican plan, corporations are still allowed to deduct state and local taxes,” California Rep. Mark Takano, a Democrat, said in a Facebook post on Monday. “Workers are not. Corporations are still allowed to deduct business expenses. Teachers are not.”

Republicans have argued that the bill will simplify the tax code and reduce taxes overall, but an analysis by the Tax Policy Center found that high-income households would see the largest cuts.

An Oklahoma teacher drew national attention earlier this year when she panhandled for school supplies at a highway intersection. At the time, she said she typically spends $2,000 to $3,000 of her $35,000 salary on classroom supplies each year. A 2013 study by the National School Supply and Equipment Association found that 99.5% of teachers use their own money on school supplies, spending $485 on average in one school year.

“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,” National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García said in a statement about the tax proposal last week.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, also spoke out against the tax plan.

“They are giving huge estate tax breaks to the Trump kids while taking away working families’ ability to deduct the costs of higher education, union dues and even the money educators spend on their classrooms,” she said in a statement last week. “We will do everything we can to fight this bill.”

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