Tax breaks mean less money for education

By Kim Kile

Let me begin by saying I am not a tax accountant nor an attorney. I am simply a private citizen who works in a public school who, like you, is trying to make sense of the new tax code and how it will affect me personally and professionally as it has been passed by Congress.

In everything I have read, it will be yet another blow to our public school system. Let me explain.

First, the bill removes the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes with the only exception being property taxes up to $10,000. This means households will see a double taxation effect.

Most experts are predicting taxpayers will then request tax reductions at a local level to relieve this situation.

Since most public schools rely on state and local taxes for funding, experts are fearing that public school funds and budgets will be cut as a consequence.

The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) played this out with a town and county in Texas and predicted that its public-school system would lose about 16 percent of its annual budget.

Another blow to public schools is the change allowed for 529 plans to include private education at any level, K to 12 through college.

These plans were originally designed to help families pay for college by making contributions to them tax-free, but by allowing them to be used now for primary and secondary education, families who can afford a private education will soon be able to realize a tax break up to $10,000 per year.

That’s a benefit for only the 10 percent of families in our country who utilize private schools. Ninety percent of our families will have no tax break and will see a tax increase for funding their public schools instead.

As it worked its way through the Senate process, the 529 plan amendment to the Senate’s tax bill was so controversial, in fact, it required Vice President Pence to come to the Senate floor in the wee hours of the night to break a tie vote.

Once again, Pence sent a clear signal to all of us in public education that he does not value our public schools and the 90 percent of our country’s children who attend them.

Finally, teachers take a personal hit with the new tax bill. Educators have been allowed a $250 tax deduction per year for purchasing their own classroom supplies.

Under this bill, we will no longer be allowed to take this token deduction. Since most teachers spend an average of $500 of their own money each year, the deduction didn’t cover our costs completely, but it did send the message the government recognized and valued our sacrifice.

The federal government certainly wasn’t getting rich on teachers’ classroom supply deductions, but it did provide goodwill to those educators who used it.

The passed bill kisses that goodwill goodbye and essentially tells teachers we no longer value you, your contribution or your work with our children.

Although some are calling this new tax code a win for President Trump and the Republican party, it sits in the loss column for public education.

The bill stands to be a detriment to public education and the children who use it nationwide for the foreseeable future. It is my hope that states and local communities will value their public-school districts and continue to fund them without cuts.

Our children deserve at least that, if not more.

Kim Kile is the director of school counseling at Greenfield-Central High School. She can be reached at kimskile@gmail.com. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfieldreporter.com.