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House Republicans have a little-known plan to raise taxes on teachers by $2 billion

By: Heather Long, The Washington Post
November 23, 2017 Updated: November 23, 2017 at 8:16 pm
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People purchase school supplies at a Walmart in the Porter Ranch neighborhood of Los Angeles in August 2015. (Patrick Fallon/Bloomberg News)

Every year, Brooke Richardson, who teaches English as a second language to mostly low-income Hispanic students in Atlanta, turns to her own pocketbook to help her students. She has lost track of how many pencils, markers, notebooks and glue sticks she buys a year.

Then there are the marshmallows and cotton balls for hands-on projects. And then there are the extra books so they have something to read on the weekend and during holiday breaks, and peanut butter and jelly so kids who don't have enough to eat have at least some food at Christmas. Every year she also has had to replace headphones or other classroom technology because something always malfunctions, and there's rarely enough money in the budget to fix it. She prides herself as a master discount shopper, but so many little purchases add up.

All in, Richardson estimates she spent $500 of her own money on her students last year. She says it's worth it — her voice lights up talking about “her kids” and all their “aha moments,” many of which come when she deviates from the textbook.

But what has also been helpful is that she's able to deduct $250 off her taxable income for the extras she buys for her classroom, a small help that Congress created in 2002 for teachers who “go above and beyond.”

Now, the educator expense deduction has become a sticking point in the GOP tax debate, with the House and Senate taking it in two wildly different directions.

The House GOP tax bill would scrap that educator deduction entirely.

The Senate GOP tax plan would double it to $500.

“The tax deduction means a lot to teachers,” says Richardson, who is 36 and lives in Atlanta. “Everything we bring to the classroom, we are doing it for our students. We are doing it because education isn't always properly funded on the state or local level.”

The education expense deduction is one of many differences between the House and Senate bills that still have to be ironed out before a tax plan can be sent to President Trump's desk. The House has already passed its version of the bill. The Senate is aiming to vote on its legislation next week.

What politicians decide could greatly affect America's 3.6 million teachers — and their students.

One of the biggest champions of the teacher deduction is Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is considered a key swing vote on the tax bill. Collins helped create the deduction in 2002 and lead the charge to make it permanent in 2015, calling it a "small token of appreciation" for teachers who make financial sacrifices for their students.

Read the full story a The Washington Post.

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