Teachers Losing Tax Deduction for Supplies

With states battling budget shortfalls, teachers are feeling the pinch, most recently in California where a tax credit that reimbursed teachers for up to $1,500 spent on classroom supplies has been suspended. A federal rule that allowed for $250 tax deduction for out-of-pocket teacher expenses expired this year.

The Associated Press reported that on average teachers spend about $458 a year on supplies they and their students would otherwise do without. The average was determined by the National School Supply and Equipment Association, a Maryland-based trade organization.

While teachers can still write off business-related expenses like everyone else, the expenses often don't meet the threshold required to qualify for a deduction. But that doesn't mean teachers will stop reaching into their own pockets to supplement their classrooms.

"What are we going to do, tell the kids, `Sorry, there's no paper today,' or tell them they can't print because there's no ink?" California teacher Doreen Seelig asked the AP. "I know I couldn't do it."

Teachers in poorer districts go so far as to purchase socks and underwear for their students and parent-teacher organizations chip in as well, but the efforts usually come up short in light of overwhelming need.

"The end of the tax benefits is effectively a tax increase for teachers -- people who spend thousands of their own dollars each day for their classrooms and who don't deserve a tax increase," Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association, told the AP.

Teachers are finding they have to be more creative to help fill the void. The Los Angeles teachers union recently teamed up with a Spanish-language radio station in asking donors for such things as glue sticks, pencils, crayons, manila folders, even socks and underwear for poorer districts, the AP reported, adding the website iLoveSchools.com matches teachers around the country with donors. The nonprofit organization, launched in July, said it has received about $90,000 in donations, the AP reported.

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