Local lawmakers stand with educators, urge Congress to do the same
CHICAGO – A tax policy win for teachers in Illinois is now at risk of being undermined at the national level as Congressional Republicans and President Trump debate wiping out tax relief for teachers who spend their own money on classroom supplies.
The federal debate comes just months after state lawmakers created a new tax credit in an effort to recognize the realities classroom teachers face. A trio of North Side state lawmakers is speaking out to defend teachers and criticize Republican efforts in Congress.
“That’s Washington and the White House going in entirely the wrong direction,” Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton said. “The reality is that teachers across the city, state and country spend their own money to make sure students have what they need in order to learn. The least we can do is give those teachers some degree of tax relief for those expenses. I can’t believe the Republicans in Washington would try to eliminate it.”
State Representative Ann Williams agreed Washington is going the wrong way on this issue.
“It’s unacceptable to think that we would take one step forward at the state level and two steps back at the national level,” Williams said. “I would encourage Chicago teachers to make use of the new state credit, and I would urge everyone to call Congress and tell them to make sure these programs continue.”
State Representative Sara Feigenholtz echoed that sentiment, arguing that those who want to eliminate it are out of touch.
"It's bad enough that our teachers have to pay out of pocket for school supplies, but they do it for the love of their students. Trump taking away the tax deduction is an outrage," Feigenholtz said.
The three state lawmakers – Cullerton, Williams and Feigenholtz -- collectively represent neighborhoods including West Lakeview, Roscoe Village, Northcenter, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, Ravenswood and Wrigleyville.
Illinois recently created a $250 tax credit for teachers who use their own money to purchase classroom supplies. In practice, that means Chicago teachers who go out and buy $250 worth of classroom materials can now directly reduce their state tax liability by up to $250.
Gov. Bruce Rauner rejected the tax credit, but Illinois lawmakers overrode his veto. Studies indicate most teachers spend far more than $250 making sure students have needed supplies.
At the federal level, there’s been a similar, $250 tax deduction for classroom supplies in place since 2002. Now, however, Republicans are threatening to eliminate it. The Republican-backed corporate tax break plan that recently passed the U.S. House zeroed out the tax deduction for teachers. Its future is now up in the air as the House, Senate and White House try to strike a final tax policy agreement.