We turn our attention now from natural to man-made disasters. Tax bills currently being considered in Congress would undermine funding for our public schools, colleges, and universities. A House vote on one of these retrograde proposals could come as early as this Thursday, November 16. Key objections to this fundamentally flawed legislation include the following:
Federal tax bill hurts public education and educators
In its current form, the House tax bill would hurt the ability of state and local governments to fund important public services like public education by largely eliminating the state and local tax deduction, ending tax benefits that help families afford college, and repealing the tax deduction currently used by educators who pay out of their own pockets for essential supplies for their students.
The proposed elimination or modification of the state and local tax (SALT) deduction is of particular concern. Not only will it hurt more than 43 million taxpayers from all 50 states and across all income brackets, it also will hurt the ability of state and local governments to fund essential services such as public education. Because state and local funding accounts for more than half of higher education funding and about 90 percent of funding for K-12 schools, any reduction will almost certainly lead to cuts in public education. Eliminating the SALT deduction will also make it much more difficult for state and local governments to raise the revenues necessary to bring state funding back to pre-recession levels (state funding for colleges and universities this year is still approximately $9 billion below 2008 levels) and to contribute the resources our public schools and colleges need.
The House bill would also end the deduction for educators who spend their own money on classroom materials, adding insult to injury for dedicated professionals trying to make sure their students have what they need, at the same time it cuts funding to those teachers’ school districts.
The House bill also limits educational opportunity by eliminating nearly $30 billion in tax credits that help students go to college. There are currently numerous tax benefits directed toward education, including tax credits, tax deductions, and tax-preferred savings accounts that help families save for and afford college. The House bill eliminates the majority of these benefits, including the student-loan interest deduction.
Finally, the decision as to how tax reform will be paid for—or not—will have a significant impact on federal funding for education. If tax reform is deficit-financed and adds to the federal debt, as both the budget resolution and the House bill would allow, there will be increased pressure for Congress to curb direct spending for education and all discretionary spending. Already tight appropriations caps have caused Congress to propose to slash funding for important education programs. What makes these tax proposals even more problematic is that, at the same time Congress is considering this reckless legislation, it is also negotiating a spending bill that will likely require cuts in the same programs the tax bill will harm.
Watch AFT’s video on the tax plan on our Facebook page. You also can join AFT President Randi Weingarten on the phone tonight at 7 p.m. (CST) for a Tele-Town Hall talk about the tax plan.