By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A typical teacher spends nearly $1,000 of his or her own money each year on basic classroom supplies to help students whose families can’t afford to purchase notebooks, pens, and other necessities, according to the National School Supply and Equipment Association.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), said teachers dig into their own pockets “because they care and they want to make a difference in children’s lives.”
There might be help on the way for teachers whose dedication to their profession leaves them with fewer bucks in their wallets.
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) is urging the assembly to pass legislation she has co-sponsored that would provide a tax break of up to $500 a year for teachers who use personal funds to purchase supplies for their students and classrooms.
The bill has been endorsed by the UFT, which has approximately 200,000 members in the New York City school system.
“Teachers routinely spend hundreds of dollars of their own money to buy materials for their students and classrooms,” Mulgrew said. “This legislation is a great way to recognize teachers and say thank you for going above and beyond to help their students.”
If enacted, the legislation would provide a tax credit for elementary and secondary school teachers who use personal funds to purchase supplies when they would not otherwise be reimbursed. Eligible expenses would include classroom books and other instructional materials and equipment, notebooks, utensils, teaching materials (such as posters and supplies for special projects), and field trip costs.
“Teachers across the city devote countless hours to support our children and recently have been digging deeper into their pockets to pay for supplies,” Malliotakis said. “Whether in the classroom or after-school hours, we know that many of our teachers invest their personal finances when funds come up short. The state should quickly adopt this tax credit for our teachers who keep stepping up to the plate for their students.”
The bill currently sits in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee. Malliotakis is a member of the committee.
There is a tax break at the federal level, but it will expire this year, according to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Congress would have to enact legislation to extend the tax break beyond 2014. The AFT, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, was founded in 1916 and currently represents 1.5 million members in more than 3,000 local affiliates in the US.
AFT officials said the shortage of funding for school supplies isn’t just a New York problem but is happening all across the country with teachers filling the gap. The AFT is currently surveying its members to determine how high their out-of-pocket expenses are.
Two examples the AFT found of members digging into their own pockets for supplies:
Philadelphia third-grade teacher Jason Bui told the AFT he had to spend $200 of his own money right off the bat in September, just to get his students started with some pencils, glue sticks and construction paper.
Donna Pitts, a fifth grade teacher in West Haven, Connecticut, stated that she and her colleagues are willing to shell out some of their own cash if it’ll make a difference in a child’s life.