GOP tax bill would eliminate $250 deduction for teachers who buy classroom supplies

Posted at 7:43 PM, Nov 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-03 21:43:17-04

SALT LAKE COUNTY – Some Utah teachers are speaking out against the GOP tax reform bill in Washington D.C.

The proposal cuts corporate taxes and simplifies tax code. It also eliminates a $250 deduction eligible to teachers for their spending on classroom supplies.

Erika Bradshaw teaches math at Hillcrest High School. It’s not a job requirement, but she buys supplies for her students.

“There's been some years I've spent like $1,500, quite a bit," she said. "It goes anywhere from like rewards, treats and things, to just school supplies or sometimes I'll buy a license to a program that I want.”

The National Education Association is pushing back. Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the teachers union spoke about the issue.

“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," Garcia said.

Bradshaw says the plan could deter people from entering the teaching profession. Many first-year teachers carry a lot of student debt and are paid low wages.

“Increasing our tax burden on top of that is gonna make it a real hardship, and we already have a huge teacher shortage," she said. "Not just in Utah, but across the nation.”

Representative Joel Briscoe (D-Salt Lake City) is also criticizing how the plan would allow families to use a tax-free savings account known as 529s to invest in private school tuition.

Originally, the account was created for college expenses. The proposal falls in line with Education Secretary Betsy Devos’ vision to expand school choice. Public school advocates worry it will encourage families to send their children to private schools.

“These are parents who can already afford a private education," Briscoe said. "To me, it's like people who climbed up the ladder of success are pulling the ladder up so people below can't climb up with them."