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June 24, 2005
Bill Helps Educators Pay Classroom Expenses
As a result of intense lobbying by NEA, a bill was introduced in the House this week that increases from $250 to $400 a tax deduction for educator expenses and broadens the deduction for the first time to include out-of-pocket professional development expenses. Significantly, the "Teacher Tax Relief Act of 2005" (H.R. 2989), sponsored by Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI), also would make the deduction a permanent part of the tax code.
To be eligible, the educator must work at least 900 hours in grades K-12 during a school year. The bill covers teachers, instructors, paraprofessionals, counselors and principals. Among the qualified expenses would be books, lesson materials, flash cards, crayons, computer equipment (including related software and services), supplementary materials used in the classroom, and professional development.
The current educator tax deduction expires this year. It is estimated that every teacher spends on average $443 of her or his own money each year on classroom materials. The bipartisan bill currently has 17 cosponsors.
Urge your Representative to cosponsor the Teacher Tax Relief Act of 2005.
House Education Budget Nears Finish
The House had not finished its work on the education budget as this update was being written, but based on one and half days of debate and votes it appeared that minor improvements were being made, though the budget still will fall well short of meeting the needs of America's children and public schools, might not be as damaging as originally drafted. Credit for lessening the budget's impact goes to NEA members, other educators, parents and others who registered their concerns with their Members of Congress.
Among the noteworthy votes was the approval of an NEA-approved amendment to rescind a proposed cut of $100 million to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the defeat of an amendment opposed by NEA to add $70 million to President Bush's new merit pay program for teachers. Also defeated was an amendment supported by NEA that would have provided a $50 million increase in state grants for students with disabilities. In a positive development, House budget and education leaders committed to trying to find additional money for Pell Grants when the budget is in conference with the Senate.
The House was expected to finish its work on the budget this afternoon. The Senate will take up its version of the education budget in late July or August.
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