Pa. legislators unveil bipartisan teacher tax credit bill
HARRISBURG, Dec. 9 – State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, today unveiled his bipartisan bill to reimburse teachers who spend their own money on school supplies for their students.

Wheatley's proposed Teacher Tax Credit Act (H.B. 1619) has 23 co-sponsors, including four Republicans. It would provide a tax credit of up to $500 for teachers who purchase out-of-pocket classroom supplies. Eligible classroom supplies would include books, supplies, computers and related equipment, including related software and services, other equipment and supplementary materials.

"While members of the General Assembly have a wide range of views on education, I think we can all agree that there are many dedicated teachers across Pennsylvania who are doing a great job for their students, often in difficult circumstances. And it's a fact that many of these teachers are spending hundreds of dollars of their own money on basic classroom supplies," Wheatley said.

Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, said, "In Philadelphia alone, one media outlet recently estimated that teachers could be spending $6 million of their own money on supplies for their students. Clearly there is a need for this bill."

"This bill in a way would reimburse teachers who go out of their way to provide materials for their students," said Rep. Lee James, R-Venango/Butler, whose wife served as a teacher in Oil City for 36 years. "I believe it’s important to recognize and show appreciation for the extra effort being put forward by the Pennsylvania teachers who purchase materials with their own money to benefit their students."

Rich Askey, an elementary music teacher in the Harrisburg School District and Pennsylvania State Education Association board member for 10 years, said, "I personally know most of the teachers I work with spend hundreds of dollars on the students in their classrooms. One colleague in my building told me she spent over $1,000 on her classroom last year – everything from incentive rewards, to educational supplemental and software programs, to paper and pencils. You can walk into any classroom in Pennsylvania and you will find items being used by our students that were purchased by their teacher.

"Think of the first-year teacher who is entering his or her classroom for the first time. Just getting their first paycheck, saddled with student loans and getting their own lives started, they also have the added expense of setting up their very first classroom. A tax credit only makes sense for them – a small reward for their generosity," Askey said.

"I don’t know any teacher who seeks credit for purchasing items for their classroom," said Rep. Karen Boback, R-Columbia/Luzerne/Wyoming. "Teachers do it for the students they teach. School budgets are very lean and this is one way for the Commonwealth to recognize those educators who go above and beyond."

Wheatley said an estimated 120,000 teachers could qualify for the state credit, which would make its cost about $65 million if they all were eligible for the full amount. Wheatley plans to offer an amendment to the bill to include support staff as well.

"I think it would be one of the best, most cost-effective investments we could make in the state budget. Maryland and Arkansas already have similar programs. Pennsylvania should be next," Wheatley said. "Currently, the federal government offers a $250 tax deduction for these purchases by teachers, but that's set to expire at the end of this year. And that's only a deduction, not a dollar-for-dollar credit. I believe Pennsylvania can and should act even if Congress doesn't."

The bill, which is supported by PSEA and the Keystone Teachers Association, has been referred to the House Finance Committee for consideration. 

State Rep. Jake Wheatley
House Democratic Communications Office
Phone: 717-787-7895

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