how much corporate welfare (or unnecessary social welfare) was given instead of saving the school supplies' tax credit? http://www.cnn.com/2004/EDUCATION/09/16/school.supplies.ap/index.html Teachers lose tax breaks for class expenses Thursday, September 16, 2004 Posted: 9:20 AM EDT (1320 GMT) LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- If Doreen Seelig pocketed all the money she has spent on classroom supplies over 35 years as a teacher -- the printer cartridges, the paper, the pencils and the paperback books lent to her Venice High School students -- she figures she would have a new car by now. Now, as the new school year gets under way, the burden on Seelig and other teachers around the country is even heavier. Because of a budget crunch, California has suspended a tax credit that reimbursed teachers up to $1,500 for classroom supplies. Meanwhile, a $250 federal tax deduction for teachers that helped defray out-of-pocket spending expired this year. Seelig said she will still buy hundreds of dollars worth of basic materials that districts do not provide. And she will still drive her 1991 Acura. "What are we going to do, tell the kids, 'Sorry, there's no paper today,' or tell them they can't print because there's no ink?" Seelig asked. "I know I couldn't do it." Teachers around the country often reach into their own pockets to buy school supplies for themselves or their students, either because the school system does not provide the money, or because they feel sorry for youngsters from poor homes who come to school without the things they need. Parent-teacher organizations and private groups often donate supplies, but educators say poor districts still come up short. For young teachers at the lowest end of the pay scale, the loss of the tax credits is particularly hard. "The end of the tax benefits is effectively a tax increase for teachers -- people who spend thousands of their own dollars each day for their classrooms and who don't deserve a tax increase," said Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association. 'It's the kids who end up suffering the most' Nationwide, teachers spent an average of $458 on school supplies, according to the National School Supply and Equipment Association, a Maryland-based trade group. The National Education Association and some lawmakers are working to reinstate the federal teacher deduction, which was introduced in 2002 but expired at the end of 2003. Teachers are still entitled to write off business expenses, like other taxpayers, but the amount they spend often does not meet the threshold for taking a deduction. By ditching its tax break, California joined most of the rest of the nation. National teacher organizations do not keep track, but it appears few states now offer teachers any relief at all. Arkansas, for example, requires that school districts reimburse teachers for up to $500 of out-of-pocket expenses. Texas officials have allocated $3 million to compensate public school teachers. Between that and local government funding, Texas teachers might reach $400 worth of reimbursements this school year. Even when tax breaks are proposed, as in Arizona last year, the teachers' lobby may be opposed, saying the solution is more state money for education. Karl Kaku, an English teacher at Fresno High School for 10 years, said he spent $200 on supplies before this year's classes had even started. "Stuff to write with, stuff to write on, pens, paper, overhead transparencies, overhead markers, ink cartridges," said Kaku, who makes $56,000 a year. "Some years, there's some money. Others, there's nothing. This year there's nothing." In the Canoga Park section of Los Angeles, teacher and expectant mother Jennifer Flores said she has already rationed her spending. "We'll do without some of the things I would usually buy," she said. "And the worst thing about it all is that it's the kids who end up suffering the most." The California credit was first offered in 2000 as a way to keep teachers from quitting. Teachers with four to 11 years in the profession received $250 to $500. Those more experienced could receive up to $1,500. The credit was suspended in 2002 as state legislators battled a budget gap. It was resurrected for the 2003-04 tax year, at a cost of $180 million to the state. Last month, legislators suspended the relief until 2007. Parent and teacher groups, as well as private companies, are scrambling to cushion the blow. The Los Angeles teachers union recently teamed up with a Spanish-language radio station in asking donors for such things as glue sticks, pencils, crayons, manila folders, even socks and underwear for poorer districts. One Web site, iLoveSchools.com, matches teachers around the country with donors. The nonprofit organization, launched in July, said it has received about $90,000 in donations.