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No Taxes for Teachers?

Contributed by Daniel Heuer
March 23, 2017

75% of districts in California face a shortage of teachers, and schools all over The Golden State struggling. Cuts to education and schools caring about the wrong things have left educators feeling like they don't matter and that there are no positive changes in sight. As one would expect, lower income areas are more affected by these problems, leading to larger class sizes, smaller budgets and simply difficult working conditions. Between 20 and 40% of teachers leave their occupation within the first five years.

This supply and demand problem is causing major issues for children, parents and communities as a whole. There have been significant increases in substandard credentials and permits. Within the last two years they have doubled, actually, as desperate times apparently call for employing vastly underqualified teachers to classrooms all across the state. Fully credentialed teachers entering the field dropped by 1000 in the last few years. Besides math and science, special education is suffering as well, with fewer and fewer teachers willing to make the sacrifice for harder hours and tougher certifications. California may also be unprepared to meet the expected increase in demand for bilingual education teachers as schools expand bilingual programs under Proposition 58.

Fortunately, Senate Bill 807 aims to make a lasting impact and help and motivate teachers to stay in their profession for many years to come instead of just struggling and moving on. It's called the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act and it's aptly named. Teachers on the job for at least five years would be exempt from paying any state income taxes. It's a draw that should make educators think twice before quitting their job.

If the bill passes, California would be the first state (as they so often are) to exempt teachers from paying state taxes.

Unfortunately, SB 807 will likely face strong opposition from California governor Jerry Brown and others, as he has already stated that there was no way to afford new initiatives for retaining teachers at the moment. SB 807 will however get its chance to be reviewed by various legislative committees within two months or so.

There are a number of other, smaller bills that lie before lawmakers and involve teachers as well. AB 45 would "transfer $100 million from the state's General Fund budget over to the California School Employee Housing Assistance Fund to help teachers get rental housing. AB 169 would provide $20,000 grants to students in teacher prep programs who would commit to teach math, science, bilingual education or special education. AB 234 would restore the Assumption Program of Loan for Education, providing $5 million in funding for 7,200 teaching candidates to help with their education so long as they commit to working in a high-demand district or school. AB 410 would prohibit school districts from charging money to new teachers for induction programs that provide extra training, mentoring, etc

It's clear to see that Californians are attacking this problem from every angle they can. The hard work being put in should not only help begin to alleviate the problem, but also send a clear message across the state that California cares for its teachers.

Another low note that could potentially hurt this bill is that, as of this moment, SB 807 has no cost estimates included in the language provided. "Experts estimate California's cost would be around $600 million annually in lost tax revenue," said tax attorney Joe Garza. Exemption from state tax would equal somewhere around a 5% raise for most teachers with 5+ years on the job.

The last few years of teacher shortages really is proof that history repeats itself, as California just went through these same problems merely 20 years ago. Underqualified teachers were hired then as well, as a part of emergency tactics to keep schools operating. It took time and bad results to finally get programs up and running to help the shift the scale to balance again. How long will it take this time until we get the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act, or something similar, written into law?


Tags: education | tax | law | budget | Recruitment | Education | Education | training



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