The Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004 reinstated a tax break for educators that allow them to deduct up to $250 of qualified out-of-pocket expenses when calculating their AGI, it’s called the Educator Expense Deduction. I don’t disagree with allowing this but it’s an example of how our system is failing if our system anticipates that a teacher in “public or private elementary or secondary schools” will be spending money out of pocket for their classrooms. In fact, I think it should be raised to have no cap or at least a very high cap. When you also consider that teacher salaries are already low, justified by some as reasonable because they only work for part of the year; it’s no wonder that the educational system has failed some students.
In some if not all cases, I would argue that $250 isn’t enough for a year as it is $20.83 a month and that won’t buy you more than a pack of crayons these days. A more reasonable number should be somewhere in the realm of $2,500 a year, if not more (such as no cap!), or $200+ a month. That’s not to say many teachers will max out the deduction, or be expected to, but it does give them the opportunity to recoup some of the costs needed to operate their classrooms in some of the under funded school systems.
The only impact I can see, with my rudimentary understanding of how it all works, is that you’ll be moving money from the government’s bucket to the education system’s bucket while decreasing transaction costs. When the government earmarks a dollar for education, it comes from tax revenue. For the dollar to get from income tax, per say, it must be collected, recorded, paperwork, red-tape, blah blah, finally it gets disbursed to the school system, then divvied up to the schools, then checks are cut, blah blah, finally the teacher gets a ten-pack of glue from a special distributor with the school. Instead, the teacher can go down to Wal-Mart, snag a ten-pack of glue (maybe 25 cents more expensive than from the special distributor), save us all a ton of paperwork churning money, and our students can glue their popsicle sticks together without waiting four months.