What Teachers And Their Students Stand To Lose Under The GOP's Tax Bill

As Republicans in Congress continue to amend their polemical tax plan, the reality of the bill and its possible consequences on middle and lower-income taxpayers is becoming more clear.

According to the Joint Commission on Taxation, a bipartisan government organization, the GOP's plan to overhaul the tax code would add an estimated $1 trillion to the nation's deficit.

But beyond the deficit, many Americans stand to bear the brunt of the bill. One group who stands to lose are teachers and their students.

The House Republicans' version of the bill eliminates a tax credit that allows teachers to deduct supplies they buy for their classrooms, up to $250. The Senate version of the bill, which hasn't yet been passed, doubles the credit to $500. Republicans are still debating the bill before it goes up for a vote, so it is unclear what will happen to the teacher credit.

However, what is clear is the significant amount of money teachers spend every year on their students and their classrooms. In a recent survey, teachers reported that they spent $600 out of their own pocket each year on supplies for their students.

"As educators spend more and more of their own funds each year to buy basic essentials, Republican leaders chose to ignore the sacrifice made by those who work in our nation's public schools to make sure students have adequate books, pencils, paper and art supplies," Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, said in November.

Refinery29 spoke to three educators about the proposed plan and what it could mean for their classrooms, many of which are filled with children from lower-income homes.

These interviews have been edited and condensed for concision and clarity.

Candice E.
Candice, 3rd grade teacher in Hempstead, N.Y.

"I spend my personal money on books for my classroom library, online subscriptions, technology (In a prior year I have purchased a projector for over $100). I also buy personal items for students like uniforms shirts, book bags, coats, hats, gloves. Throughout the year, tissues and Lysol wipes are needed and purchased by teachers. I purchase items for classroom celebrations and science projects, as well."

"[The GOP tax bill] will affect me because I will no longer get that money back. Teachers will be less willing to use their own money to buy essential items knowing that they will not be reimbursed with even a fraction of what they spend. I spend more than $250 a year but that's what the credit allowed me to get back. Knowing that I won't even get that much is very disheartening. Every child in my school qualifies for free lunch and some live in shelters. Kids, specifically in lower income areas, may suffer from this, because oftentimes they cannot afford the supplies on the supply list. The teachers are the ones who supply them with the items."

"In the long run , teachers will still end up buying items because they are needed to properly run the classroom."
I feel like there are so many people who ... don’t understand how little we make for what we do.

Todd Nesloney, principal at elementary school in Texas, former 4th and 5th grade teacher

"I know that when I was still teaching every day in the classroom, I would spend at least $1,500 a year on my own supplies. Or I would apply for Donors Choose projects to help supplement. As a principal now, I know I spend at least $2,000 out of my own pocket to help get supplies for my teachers that might be outside the norm or for purchasing things that will make our school look better (photos in the hall, painting certain areas, etc.). I think the most I ever spent was probably over $2,000 and that was a year that I did a lot of classroom transformations and event-style teaching which required supplies that schools don't always readily have on hand."

"As a principal now (and as a classroom teacher before) I spend money on clothes and supplies for children we know go without. I also spend money on food, or blankets, or even books for classrooms and gifts for my staff now. I am terrified of many of the choices being made in Washington. Whether it's with the tax bill or the Department of Education. I feel like there are so many people who are disconnected from the educational world and don’t understand how little we make for what we do. Yet they’re often the ones making the financial decisions for our schools and districts."

"I love working in education. I always have. It isn't easy and there have been many nights that I went to sleep where my bank account barely had anything in it, but like most educators, I get up every day and head back in to my classroom and my school because I love those kids so much. And those kids don't need to worry about my struggles. They just need us to love them, be present for them, and to leave our own drama in the car."

Tony Gilgamesh
Tony Gilgamesh, 3rd grade special education teacher in Harlem, a neighborhood in Manhattan

"I know directly on supplies and materials for classrooms and students I spend at least $500 out pocket. Indirectly for rewards, and personal development type spending approximately $200. So I would say I've spend about $700 total from September to December. The most I spent was approximately $2,000 last year since I was a brand new teacher and had way less resources than I do now."

"The majority of my students live in shelters or in foster homes with limited resources and high needs. Schools budgets are limited as is, so at a certain point it becomes a parent's responsibility, but when a majority of the parents are victims of domestic abuse, constantly moving, living in poverty, dealing with various socio-economical challenges so to speak, as a teacher you end up being a second parent."

"[The tax bill will have] a very negative impact, especially on students with special needs that require additional resources and supports. As teachers, we won't be able to afford to dig in our own pockets and go that extra mile to give the students what they need."
Candice E.
Headsets one teacher bought for her classroom.
Todd Nesloney