Staff Editorial: Tax break would relieve teachers, benefit students

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Wilson High School is located at 3950 Chesapeake St. NW in Tenleytown. (Brian Kapur/The Current/September 2016)
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In theory, D.C. taxpayers provide the funding necessary to stock a public school classroom with paper, pencils, books and other educational materials and supplies for students.

But gaps do present themselves — frequently leaving teachers with undesirable options. As professionals, they want to ensure their students have the tools to succeed. But as public servants living in an expensive region, they also have to be cognizant of their own financial needs.

Many educators disregard the latter concern, as Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh has observed. “It is no secret that District teachers make many personal and financial sacrifices for our students — not only do many teachers report spending hundreds of dollars throughout the school year on classroom supplies, many dedicate weekends and vacation days to ensure that every student has the best chance to succeed,” Ms. Cheh said in a news release.

Meanwhile, when a teacher doesn’t have personal funds to spare for his or her students, those children may miss out.

In response to the issue, Council member Cheh recently introduced the Educator Expense Tax Credit Amendment Act of 2017. This bill would allow full-time teachers in the D.C. Public Schools system or a D.C. public charter school to deduct up to $500 in classroom and professional development expenses from their city income tax bill.

Although we’re open to further discussion of the details, we hope the council does adopt some reform in this vein. When teachers succeed professionally, the beneficiaries are our city’s children. It’s particularly key to consider tax relief for teachers now, because Congress is on pace to eliminate their existing $250 federal deduction as part of its sweeping tax reform. We also appreciate that the proposed tax credit would target teachers who both live and work within D.C., providing at least a modest incentive for our educators to live in the city where they teach.