Tax Deductions for Teachers

One of my colleagues teaches first grade in our lower-income school district. He confided that during the school year, he spends quite a bit of money on students.

He spends more than just the usual (art supplies, in my case; pencils and specialty papers; office supplies not provided by the district; even reams of paper when we run out of budget at the end of the year, and believe me, all this costs way more than the $150 in teacher money that we received this year, and way more than the paltry budget I have, especially since in our school, most of the student art class fees are waived for free- and reduced-lunch).

I know I’m not as diligent as he, but I’ve spent my share on coats, shirts, shoes and other necessities for very poor students. The sad thing is, my colleague tells me, is that often his first-graders show up to school a few weeks later without the coat. Where did it go? The kids can’t rightly say. So he goes out and buys another coat for the kids. It’s either that or have the kids come to school in shirt-sleeves in 10-degree weather.

The IRS allows a $250 deduction for K-12 teachers who spend out of their own pockets for education-related expenses. I know that I personally spend several times that amount, and I can only imagine what my first-grade-teaching colleague actually puts out–and this in a state with some of the lowest average teacher salaries in the nation.

If teachers could save their receipts and actually document what they spent, and then deduct that from their tax return, the same as they would deduct any charitable deduction, I would bet that most teachers would have a much higher deduction for education expenses.

I would guess that my colleague would be grateful for such a thing. I certainly would!

If there were ever an arena where people can see real need and can reach out to meet it, this would certainly be the classroom. Kudos to my colleague and the millions of teachers who reach into their pockets to benefit poor kids–and a challenge to the government to allow this type of spending as charitable deductions.



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