Republican tax bill makes it harder for our educators to do their jobs

Republican tax bill makes it harder for our educators to do their jobs
© Getty Images

There is a laundry list of problems with the Republican tax overhaul that recently passed the House of Representatives and is currently being considered in the Senate. The bottom line is this bill puts corporations and the ultra wealthy ahead of hardworking American families. But let’s dig a little deeper. For someone like me, an educator who spent nearly four decades as an elementary teacher and special educator in Baltimore City, the Republican plan is just cruel because it eliminates the federal educator expense tax deduction, which has allowed teachers to recoup up to $250 that they spend on supplies for their classrooms.

Since school started in September, I have had the honor of visiting classrooms across the city of Baltimore to see educators working diligently to provide innovative learning opportunities for their students. Many of these children not only show up to homeroom without a pencil, but also without a coat or food in their stomachs.

Educators are compassionate. They believe it is their duty to equip their students with the tools they need to be successful, even if they must pull from their personal budgets to provide pencils and notebook paper for class instruction, and food and hygiene items their students can use discreetly during the school day. The “yes” vote that 227 members of the House took to eliminate this option for our educators is a slap in the face for the very people who nurture and teach children.

If we asked each one of those 227 “yes” votes if they can remember an educator they admired when they were in school, their answer would be “yes.” They may even tell us that their son, daughter or grandchild is a teacher. I would remind them how their son, daughter or grandchild sacrifices time, money and resources, which far exceed $250, to create a learning environment that will enable successful academic outcomes for their students. I would remind them of the countless hours their son, daughter or grandchild sacrifices preparing innovative lesson plans, hosting tutorial sessions after school, and mentoring through school clubs and athletics.

I would remind them how their son, daughter or grandchild spends time on their days off enrolling in professional courses to help improve and expand their pedagogy. I would remind them that their son, daughter or grandchild does all of this in order to provide children who may come to class tired, cold or hungry, an opportunity to reach beyond their current circumstances in order to become our country’s next great leaders.

Educators across the country are proponents of doing what it takes, including spending money from their own pockets, to provide children with the resources they need to be successful. We owe them our respect, and a great debt, but right now, House Republicans are showing them anything but that. I urge each and every one of them to take a moment to reconsider eliminating the $250 tax deduction from those in the classroom to give to those in the boardroom before it is too late.

Marietta English is president of the Baltimore Teachers Union and vice president of the American Federation of Teachers.