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Teachers could get help with expenses under House bill

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Indiana teachers could receive money to pay for classroom expenses under a bill passed Thursday by the House Education Committee.

House Bill 1349 would establish a Classroom Expense Fund, from which money would be advanced to educators across the state. The funds are meant to supplement the money currently used by teachers to pay for items or activities used in the classroom.

The money would be distributed annually, and any funds not used by teachers will be returned to the school districts and then to the state.

“This came from my personal experience growing up,” said Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, the author of the bill. “I saw how much my mom spent from her own funds.”

Teachers currently have the ability to file for tax breaks for money spent to purchase items for their students and classrooms. The bill provides that the money given to teachers to replace the exemptions would be determined by how many educators are eligible to receive the funds.

Claire Fiddian-Green, special assistant to the governor for education innovation, announced the governor’s support for the bill. “Teachers shouldn’t have to use their own money,” she said.

Fiddian-Green cited findings from a statewide survey that found 80 percent of teachers polled used personal funds to purchase items for the classroom.

John Barnes, the director of legislative affairs for state Superintendent Glenda Ritz, said the Indiana Department of Education supports the bill.  “We think this is a good idea,” Barnes said.

Sally Sloan, a member of the American Federation of Teachers Indiana, also supported the legislation but said the process of distributing money to teachers might be overly complicated. “I think the idea is good, but the process is strained,” Sloan said.

The bill passed unanimously and now moves to the House floor for further consideration.

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