Commentary: Today, Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives unveiled a massive, $5 trillion tax plan that gives away huge tax breaks for the wealthiest and corporations, while putting middle-class families at risk of higher taxes. The plan also expands an education tax loophole that would further benefit the wealthy and allow them to set aside money for private school expenses while cutting tax deductions for the middle class. The plan also eliminates the educator tax deduction that allows educators to deduct eligible unreimbursed classroom spending up to $250. Congress made this deduction permanent in 2015. According to a recent report, 99.5 percent of educators dip into their own pocketbooks to provide supplies and instructional materials for their students. This tax plan rollout is the first step in a rushed effort to rewrite the tax code and ultimately pave the way for devastating cuts to working families, students and communities.
NEA President Lily Eskelsen García released the following statement:
“The tax plan released by House Republican leaders and backed by President Trump is a massive tax giveaway to the wealthiest individuals and corporations funded on the backs of students and working families. Expanding education tax loopholes in order for wealthy families to stash away money for private school will hurt neighborhood public schools and students. Similarly, as educators spend more and more of their own funds each year to buy basic essentials, Republican leaders chose to ignore the sacrifice made by those who work in our nation’s public schools to make sure students have adequate books, pencils, paper and art supplies.
“Eliminating any part of the state and local tax deduction equals a tax increase on middle class families that will have a negative, ripple effect on states’ and local communities’ ability to fund public services, like public education. That will translate into cuts to public schools, lost jobs to educators, and overcrowded classrooms that deprive students of one-on-one attention.
“We’ve been down this yellow brick road before. The failed ‘Kansas experiment,’ in which GOP leaders pushed brutal tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations starved the state of basic services and resulted in crippling cuts to public education. Educators left the profession and the state, class sizes ballooned, schools closed. In a bipartisan show of force, Kansas lawmakers, realizing the real-life consequences and failure of the experiment, then reversed course.
“And we’ve seen it from Washington, too. Lawmakers pass massive tax cuts then come back later demanding huge cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and education to ‘pay for’ the tax breaks for people and corporations who are not paying their fair share before getting new tax breaks.
“As with their health care debacle this year, Republican leaders and the White House are rushing to pass a massive, partisan bill that impacts every household, public services like education, and our economy without giving it the scrutiny and deliberation it deserves. The American people reject this plan. This recklessness cannot stand.”