Within all the many layers of the $1.5 trillion tax bill Congress passed last month, one seemingly insignificant element remained unchanged: a $250 deduction on taxable income that teachers can claim for the purchase of classroom supplies.
But what seems small to some seems big to others. And that’s certainly the case for Hall County teachers.
“This is definitely a deduction that I take every year,” said Alisha Buffington, a science lab teacher at Chicopee Woods Elementary. “I try to save my receipts, for audit purposes, but also out of curiosity when I realized years back that I’d spent nearly $1,000 on my classroom. I could easily spend much more, but realize that I’ve got to cut back at some point.”
The deduction had been considered for chopping. A version of the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives axed it, while a Senate version doubled the deduction to $500.
Ultimately, it went untouched.
Chantelle Grace, a social studies teacher at Chestatee High School, said she routinely claims this deduction — if for no other reason than because, like many public school teachers, she spends more than the deduction is worth.
“If I had to give an average of how much I spend in an academic year on supplies, I would say it's around $300,” she added. “The first years are the hardest since you have to buy things like pencil sharpeners, three-hole punch, staplers, classroom decorations, mini dry-erase boards, comfortable desk chairs … So you may spend up to $500 those first few years.”
Kelsey Brunson, director of bands at South Hall Middle School, said the debate over eliminating or raising the deduction actually brought it to her attention for the first time.
“I honestly had no idea there was a tax deduction for teachers who purchase their own classroom supplies,” she added. “That is definitely something I will look into for the future.”
Brunson, whose husband is also a Hall County teacher, said together they spend between $1,000 to $1,500 out of pocket.
“Hall County does financially support its band programs, but there are regular additional needs that can’t be covered by the school budget, and booster organizations only provide so much without hindering the pocketbooks of our families,” she added. “When it comes down to it, we often have to ask ourselves whether we want our program and our students to suffer by not having certain equipment or materials that they need. Or can our personal finances allow for some sacrifices in order to provide for our students?”
Kimberly Nelson, an English for Speakers of Other Languages teacher at Flowery Branch Elementary, said she always takes the full deduction come tax season for similar reasons. She spends between $500 and $700 a year to acquire additional supplies, such as professional books.
“As a non-homeroom, yet still a classroom teacher, my students do not bring any supplies … I have to purchase basic classroom supplies for about 80 students who I see daily,” Nelson added. “So every little bit in a tax deduction helps.”