The tax reform proposal that House Republican leaders trotted out on Thursday could have a major impact on various facets of education, ranging from school choice and public school revenue to the tax deduction teachers get for spending their own money on supplies.
The legislation is largely seen as a win in the DeVos camp and for advocates of school choice as it would allow families to use up to $10k in savings from previously off-limits 529 college savings plans to go towards private school tuition and K-12 expenses.
U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos praised the move calling it a win for the middle-class. “This is a good step forward, reflecting that education should be an investment in individual students, not systems,” read a statement from DeVos. “I look forward to continuing to work with Congressional leaders to ensure all families have equal access to the education that meets their child’s unique needs.”
The changes to tax benefits were met with mixed emotions from education advocates. Tommy Schultz, a spokesman for the American Federation for Children, praised the move as a step forward in allowing parents to pursue the best education for the children. “We certainly support this for those families who have 529s,” Schultz told The 74. “However, we are also concerned about and focused on those families who do not have 529s, typically low-income families who aren’t able to put away those savings, who are looking for more and better educational options for their children.”
That concern was also expressed by Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, who said the move would only benefit wealthy families while hurting “neighborhood public schools and students.”
Another aspect of the proposal that would have a direct impact on the wallets of teachers is that it would also end a $250 tax deduction for their spending on school supplies. Teachers spend an average of $,1000 a year of their salary on school supplies, but that small tax break could go away. Teachers often have to dig into their own wallets to help cover the gaps for students who are unable to buy their own pencils, glue, etc and come to class unequipped for assignments.
“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,” Eskelsen García told The Washington Post.
Oklahoma teacher Teresa Danks made national headlines when she went so far as to panhandle to raise money to cover school supplies that she otherwise wouldn’t be able to cover on her $35,000 a year salary.
GOP lawmakers also want to limit federal deductions of state and local property taxes and end the deduction for state and local income and sales taxes. Education advocates warn that this could stunt revenues for public schools. Without the federal deduction for those taxes, states would most-likely feel pressure to cut their own taxes and this would jeopardize revenue for public schools, argue education advocacy groups like the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of School Administrators. “The impact these changes would have on state and local governments to adequately and appropriately invest in and support critical infrastructure investments, including public schools, are unacceptable and put our nation on a path that undermines progress in student learning, graduation rates, college completion rates and career readiness,” read a statement from AASA executive director, Daniel A. Domenech.
The House of Representatives is aiming to have the bill passed before 2018.
Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor