Why educators should support the proposed Education Tax Credit

New York’s hard-working teachers go out of their way year round to ensure that the students in their classes have what’s necessary to be successful. Teachers across New York State collectively spending millions of dollars out-of-pocket each year for classroom supplies and instructional materials. Unlike most jobs where employers are expected to provide all the materials needed to get the job done, teachers dole out hundreds – and sometimes more than $1,000 – annually for their classrooms.

According to a report from the Education Market Association, 99.5 percent of teachers spent their own money on school supplies, instructional materials and other classroom materials and these costs are significant.  The national average for out-of-pocket spending for classroom supplies and instructional materials is nearly $500 per teacher annually.

Teachers in the Northeast spend the most of any region in the country and pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teachers typically spend the most by grade level. What’s even more startling is the fact that a full 10 percent of teachers spent $1,000 or more out-of-pocket on classroom supplies, a rate that is double the percentage of teachers spending $1,000 or more in previous years.

The report finds that parents are being asked to contribute in fewer classrooms. Just 25 percent of teachers indicated that parents are required to purchase classroom materials, a significant drop from 47 percent two years earlier. This may create an even larger burden for teachers to cover expenses for classroom supplies.

One solution that New York educators can get behind can be found in the Education Tax Credit. The plan would reimburse teachers for a share of the purchases they make for classroom supplies by providing a credit on their state income taxes. The initial proposal would cover up to $200 annually in classroom supply purchases and could be modestly increased in future years.

The Education Tax Credit would also generate millions of dollars in donations annually for district arts, music, history, athletics, and other programs that are all too often at-risk of being cut, as well as encourage donations for non-profit scholarship funds.

While it’s clear that everyone – educators, students, and families – would benefit from the Education Tax Credit, it is unfortunate that the plan was not adopted as part of the state budget last month.  Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a version of the plan in his state budget and the NYS Senate has passed the plan.  Despite widespread support in the NYS Assembly, it has not come to the floor yet for a vote in that house.  The issue remains in play for the post-budget legislative session.

While it’s encouraging that Gov. Cuomo and the NYS Senate have claimed that they will work to see the Education Tax Credit passed into law, the only thing that will matter to New York’s educators, students, and families is if the plan becomes law this year.