Teacher Commentary: The House Tax Cut Will Force Educators Out Of The Classroom
Teacher Commentary: The House Tax Cut Will Force Educators Out of the Classroom
One of the reasons many of the students I teach do not engage in reading is because they struggle to find books that feature characters and experiences they can personally relate to. However, when I introduced Nicola Yoon’s novel, "Everything, Everything", to my class, which features a young African American female character who resembles many of my students, I witnessed a surge in interest. Ten girls immediately expressed their desire to read the book, and there was even some competition amongst the students to get their hands on it. Recognizing this enthusiasm, I recently purchased Yoon’s latest book, "The Sun Is Also a Star", and already there are multiple students eagerly awaiting their turn to borrow it.
Every weekend, I make it a point to visit bookstores such as Half Priced Books and Barnes & Noble to seek out titles that I can provide for my students. Over the course of my two and a half years of teaching, I have purchased nearly 200 books for my classroom. My ultimate goal is to instill a lifelong love for reading in my students. I am fully committed to this mission, even if it means making a financial sacrifice. I spend over $500 each year on classroom supplies, with a significant portion of that amount dedicated to purchasing books. I am well aware of the importance of providing books to my students because many of their parents are unable to do so. To support my efforts, the tax break I receive at the start of each year helps to alleviate some of the financial burden.
However, I am deeply concerned about the recent decision by the House to pass a wide-ranging tax cut that includes the elimination of the tax deduction for teachers’ classroom supplies. This decision does not make sense to me. Why would we take away a teacher’s ability to receive a tax break for something that they should not have to personally finance in the first place? As an educator in an urban school, I constantly struggle with limited resources. Many parents cannot afford to provide their children with the necessary supplies. I have personally purchased deodorant and book bags for my students, as well as pens, pencils, notebooks, glue, tool boxes, scissors, crayons, markers, and folders for those whose families are unable to afford school supplies.
It is important to understand that one of the reasons teachers choose to leave the profession is the strain that comes with not only providing the best possible education for our students, but also having to financially invest in basic classroom necessities. Unfortunately, the House GOP tax plan only adds to this burden and makes teachers like myself contemplate whether or not to remain in the profession.
Just imagine if doctors were required to pay for their patients’ robes, syringes, or medication. Such a notion would be deemed outrageous. So why should teachers be treated any differently? I genuinely care for my students and am fully committed to their wellbeing. However, I also require financial stability, and being able to claim even a small portion of my classroom expenses on my taxes is one way to achieve that.
Rather than reducing incentives, we should be implementing more to encourage young professionals to pursue careers in teaching. By making the profession even less financially viable, we will only discourage college graduates from entering the field. As teachers, we are responsible for educating the next generation of leaders and changemakers. Therefore, it is crucial that Congress prioritizes the preservation of teachers’ tax deductions, instead of stripping them away. In the meantime, while policymakers in Washington deliberate over what to keep and what to discard in their tax plans, I will continue to purchase books for my students so that they can continue to enjoy the benefits of reading.
Idalmi Acosta is an eighth-grade ELA teacher at Harshman Magnet Middle School in Indianapolis. She is also a Teach Plus Indianapolis Teaching Policy Fellow.