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Field Notes: Let’s Talk Taxes

As a national association of and for English teachers, it’s our job at NCTE to keep an eye out for Federal legislation that we know will affect our members. I think you’re going to want to pay close attention to what’s going on with tax reform right now.

Last month I traveled to several Senate offices to talk about the work our members do every day to inspire writers, readers, and engaged citizens. Their appreciation of teachers was unanimous, but what we’re seeing in an analysis of these proposed tax bills does not reflect that appreciation at all. Between the House and Senate versions of the bill, which will need to be reconciled in the coming weeks, the following provisions are in jeopardy:

  • The Teacher Expense Deduction
  • The Graduate Student Loan Interest Deduction
  • The Exemption for Graduate Tuition Waivers

Here’s why keeping these provisions in our tax code matters:

On average, teachers spend more than $500 on their classrooms per year. At present, the teacher expense deduction offers $250 to ameliorate these costs. The House and Senate versions of the tax bill both eliminate that deduction. That makes it that much harder for teachers to afford the books, supplies, and professional development that provides rich learning for their students.

Teachers choose this profession because they believe preparing a literate generation for the future is critical. They are so committed to doing so that this choice comes at a sacrifice of other higher paying jobs. That choice means it takes teachers longer to pay off student loans. The current student loan interest deduction offers up to $2,500 to ease these expenses. The House version of the tax bill eliminates that deduction. For many teachers, taxable income will increase without this deduction, and that makes this profession even less attractive in the face of huge teacher shortages throughout this country.

I recently read a tweet where an NCTE member shared that he was giving to his own Donor’s Choose campaign in order to help move his classroom library along. I never see posts like that from other professionals. Surgeons aren’t paying for their own scalpels. Bankers aren’t going out and buying their own paper and ink. Teachers are helping to build the future through our children, and they are doing it in part with their own paychecks.

Progress in our field depends on research and resources that come through higher education. Right now many graduate students, already struggling to make ends meet, get tuition waivers to help them cover the cost of continuing education. The House version of the tax bill eliminates the exemption for that waived tuition. This will have devastating consequences for educators who would otherwise seek higher education but will no longer be able to afford it. Moreover, the loss of a highly educated teacher workforce further impacts our ability to stay competitive internationally.

Now is not the time to shortchange teachers, and legislators on both sides of the aisle need to be reminded of that.

We need passionate people to flock to the profession and stay in it for the long haul. We need teachers to continue to learn and grow and be able to afford the graduate programs that bring the best thinking in the field into their classrooms. We need all the latest innovations in reading and writing to be possible in every classroom, not just those where the schools and teachers can afford them.

Please join NCTE in speaking out, and tell your representatives that these provisions should be maintained in the final version of the bill. At NCTE we spend every day seeking ways to support teachers in their classrooms. We’re fighting for you on the tax issue. If we value our children’s future, the laws we pass that affect their education should do the same. Hearing from constituents can have a tremendous impact on how Senators and Representatives understand the issues they’re voting on. The most important thing you can do is to reach out to the legislators representing your state and let them know you are a teacher and that the tax changes matter to you!

NCTE provides an easy way to reach out to your legislators here:

 

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