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GOP tax plans harm students and educators

EAST LANSING – The federal tax plans put forward by Republican leaders in Congress attack educators and threaten funding for public school students – which is why MEA President Paula Herbart urged Michigan’s Congressional delegation to oppose these dangerous proposals.

“These proposals amount to a $5 trillion tax giveaway to the wealthiest and corporations, paid for on the backs of working families and public schools,” Herbart said.

African American teacher and children in classroom

Source: kali9 / Getty

In addition to tax breaks targeted to the richest 1 percent and large corporations, the U.S. House and Senate GOP plans eliminate deductions which primarily benefit middle-class families and, if enacted, will have disastrous effects on public schools and the students they serve.

Educators take a direct hit from the House proposal, which eliminates the popular educator tax deduction that allows teachers to deduct eligible unreimbursed out-of-pocket classroom spending—books, paper, pencils and art supplies—purchased to supplement meager school budgets.  The deduction is capped at $250 annually and was only recently made a permanent part of the federal tax code.

Farmington teacher Colleen Stamm has purchased notebooks, furniture, markers, prizes, food and other items to support her students and her classroom. “The $250 deduction only covers a portion of what I spend each year.  The tax credit makes me feel that the government does support teachers in some way,” Stamm said. “Without the credit, I again feel as though policymakers are out of touch with educators and how much each and every one of us give to our students, both monetarily and with our time.”

“Every educator I know dips into their own pockets to provide needed classroom supplies that schools and students cannot afford,” said Herbart, citing national statistics that the average teacher spends nearly $500 on supplies each year.  “In Michigan, where the Department of Education reports that average teacher salaries have declined for the fifth straight year, this out-of-pocket spending is a real hardship on many school employees. To eliminate the modest deduction they get for helping their students is a slap in the face of these dedicated educators.”

Both the House and Senate proposals also go after the state and local tax (SALT) deduction—taking money out of the pockets of as many as 44 million middle-class families across the nation and threatening critical funding for public schools.

“State and local income and sales taxes provide a major source of funding for public schools.  Elimination of the state and local tax deduction will have a negative, ripple effect on the ability of states and local communities to fund those schools,” Herbart said.  “That will translate into cuts to public schools, lost jobs to educators, and overcrowded classrooms that deprive students of one-on-one attention.”

According to recent analysis from the National Education Association, the Senate’s proposed elimination of the SALT deduction could blow a hole in state and local revenue to support public education to the tune of $370 billion over ten years, potentially putting at risk funding for 370,000 education jobs.  In Michigan alone, that could mean a $561 per pupil funding cut and potentially more than 6,500 lost school jobs.

Those citizens across the country who are demanding tax reform did not sign up for a huge tax break for corporations and the wealthiest among us—and they sure didn’t sign off on the harm to students and educators that this plan represents,” Herbart said.

“The mission of the MEA is to ensure that the education of our students and the working environments of our members are of the highest quality.”

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