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Educators paying out-of-pocket for school supplies could get additional tax relief

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The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that 94% of teachers spend their own money to stock their classrooms with supplies and materials.

To help mitigate these out-of-pocket expenses, the state offers a tax deduction of $250 to teachers who purchase supplies. This results in a reduction of only about $17 in their tax liability, according the Rep. Heather Keeler (DFL-Moorhead).

She sponsors HF1317, which aims to offset more of those costs by establishing a refundable income tax credit for educator expenses.

The bill was approved 16-0 by the House Education Policy Committee Wednesday. It now heads to the House Taxes Committee. The companion, SF1577, awaits action by the Senate Taxes Committee. Sen. Mary Kunesh (DFL-New Brighton) is the sponsor.

“We have some teachers who are spending nearly $1,000 in their classroom every year on things like pencils, Kleenexes, learning tools, but also bins and books and things that help our kids so much,” Keeler said.

The proposal would provide a credit equal to 25% of an educator’s eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $250 per educator. The credit is phased out for single taxpayers with incomes in excess of $40,000 and married taxpayers filing joint returns with incomes in excess of $80,000.

“It is really targeted to our educators who are in their first years, or in that lower pay scale as they start to set up their classrooms,” Keeler said. “And it makes it into a refundable tax credit so that their actual tax bill goes down.”

K-12 teachers, instructors, counselors, principals, or aides in a school for at least 900 hours during the school year would be eligible. So would certain prekindergarten teachers.  

Karen Taylor, an eighth-grade teacher at Horizon Middle School in the Moorhead School District, expressed support for the proposal saying the supply shortage has been an ongoing issue over the course of her career and it takes a toll on educators’ livelihoods.

“One in five starting teachers works a second job to provide for themselves, try to pay off their student loans and apparently buy supplies for their students,” she said. “HF1317 seems like one way to say ‘thank you’ to the teachers investing in Minnesota’s kids.”

Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) supports the proposal but noted that a multi-pronged approach, including donations and supply drives, should be used to help ensure teachers and students have the resources they need.

“We also need to look to our communities because they need to understand that sometimes a school budget doesn’t allow for supplies for a teacher, and to call attention to that and rally what I would say are the troops.”

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