Texas teachers could be impacted if Congress ends teacher spending deduction

Teacher Heaven sells a wide variety of classroom materials. (KXAN Photo/Steffi Lee)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – As lawmakers in Congress continue working toward a tax reform proposal they can all agree on, Texas educators could end up feeling the impact.

Under the House GOP tax bill, the teacher spending deduction would be entirely cut. The Senate’s version aims to double the tax break from $250 to $500.

Susan Savoie, owner of Teacher Heaven in Austin, said 95 percent of their business comes from teachers spending their own money to get materials for the classroom.

“That’s the way it’s been all of 21 years that we’ve been here,” Savoie said. “Of course we do get money from the schools periodically, however most of them are spending their money out of their pocket.”

Teacher Heaven sells a variety of materials for the classroom, ranging from decorations to STEM resources.

“We are a luxury for the teachers,” Savoie said. “But they all want their classrooms to be perfect. They want to influence the student as best they can.”

Numbers from the National Education Association show the average annual salary for a teacher in Texas is $52,000. But Noel Candelaria with the Texas State Teachers Association said it’s low compared to the rest of the nation. “Texas teachers are below the national average by over $6,500,” he said.

Candelaria believes the current teacher spending deduction is helpful to balance out what teachers are dealing with.

“There’s already a problem,” he said. “We have a huge turnover in teachers where we lose half of all new teachers within the first five years. Usually it’s for lack of support but shortly right after, it’s because of the lack of pay.”

Holly Eaton, director of professional development and advocacy at the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, said other factors are also affecting a teacher’s salary outside of how much they spend out-of-pocket to help students inside the classroom.

“More recently, what’s cut into their income is the rising cost of health insurance,” she said. “They are having to pay a larger proportion of their premiums and their deductibles are going up and the costs are increasing.”

President Donald Trump is hoping to sign a tax reform bill by Christmas.

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