GOP plan would help teachers buy school supplies

If the Indiana House Republican Caucus gets its way in the 2015 session, Hoosier teachers could soon receive extra money to spend on classroom supplies.

The proposed tax credit – part of the House Republicans legislative agenda – doesn’t yet have a price tag. But a credit could essentially reimburse teachers for money they’ve spent on supplies, up to a cap that would be set in the law.

“For years, teachers across Indiana start their school years by dipping into their own wallets to buy supplies for their students,” Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said in a written statement. “This session, we hope to provide teachers with a tax credit for these supplies. We need to support our public school teachers as they support our students.”

Greenwood Community High School teacher Blaine Williams has been teaching since 2006 and remembers starting out with few supplies for his class.

“When I was a new teacher, I did a lot of spending,” Williams said. “I spent a couple hundred bucks to get my classroom looking the way I wanted and also on supplies that I thought I might need, but now I have a stockpile so I don’t have to do it as much anymore.”

Williams said favors a tax break for teachers and that it would be helpful for new educators who are just beginning their careers.

“I think it is something people will like,” Williams said. “I know there are a lot of young teachers that were in my position.”

Drew Koning, a teacher at White Lick Elementary School in Brownsburg, is one of those new teachers. Koning is in his second year as an educator and spends his own money on a weekly basis.

“I’d say I buy supplies two to three times a week,” Koning said. “I usually spend $10 to $15 per week. Since I started, I think I’ve spent probably $1,000.”

Koning is in favor of a tax break, but said he believes there should be a system behind the way the money is dispersed.

“Absolutely, I think it would be a huge help for first and second-year teachers,” Koning said. “I think it should depend on what level you teach. An elementary school teacher might spend a little more compared to a high school teacher.”

Although he has had to pay several hundred dollars out of pocket for classroom materials, Koning said the parents of the children he teaches have been helpful when it comes to funding. But he said his experiences with parents might not be the same for every teacher.

“Parents want their kids to do well, so they provide a lot of support,” Koning said. “The parents’ support at Brownsburg is amazing, so that is always good. But I know it’s not like that at all schools.”

Democrats have not criticized the GOP proposal to help teachers afford supplies. But House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said teachers have been “forced into that situation because their schools have been financially gutted of the basics by these same Republicans.”

GOP leaders have proposed to increase overall spending for schools, as has Republican Gov. Mike Pence. But until a revenue forecast projects funding for the next two years, none have been willing to say how much more money they want to send schools.

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