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Legislation Calls for Tax Credit for Teachers Who Pay for Their Own Supplies

Many Pennsylvania teachers are not only preparing for the future of their students, but they’re also helping to pay for it, too.

State Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny) has introduced legislation that would provide a tax credit for teachers who use their own money for their students’ school supplies.

“We kept reading report after report that teachers all across the commonwealth were spending extra to provide the bare necessities, school supplies for their students,” Wheatley said. “Some of it is the cause of budget cuts that we’ve seen recently, some of it is just the fact that teachers that care about their students go above and beyond.”

The bill would cover supplies such as books, computers, related software and services and supplementary materials.

The federal government offered a $250 tax deduction for teachers who use their own money, but that expired Dec. 31.

Wheatley said his legislation would provide for a dollar-for-dollar tax credit up to $500.  He estimated that 120,000 teachers could qualify, costing the commonwealth about $65 million.

“Some misinterpret this as if we’re giving educators additional free taxpayer money,” Wheatley said. “This is actually a reimbursement for teachers who are spending out of their own pockets to provide things that the district should be providing.”

In September, Philadelphia’s City Paper surveyed a dozen teachers who said they spend about $500 a year on school supplies. If that amount was applied to the city’s 15,000 teachers, the paper concluded that they would spend about $6 million a year.

Wheatley said he hopes this legislation shows educators that they are listening.

“This is a small token to try to ease some of their strain,” Wheatley said. “Again, it is a drop in the bucket of the overall funding discussion that we should have but we do believe that this should go through to provide some relief to those teachers who are providing that additional support.”

A similar bill was introduced in the Senate and would have a $15-million cap.  Wheatley said his legislation does not have a cap, but he would be open to discussing one as the legislation advances.

The Pennsylvania State Education Association and the Keystone Teachers Association support Wheatley’s bill which has been referred to the House Finance Committee.

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.