Bills could help Missouri teachers save money on supplies

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BOONVILLE - Two Missouri state lawmakers proposed two bills that could help alleviate costs teachers put up for their classrooms. 

Tuesday morning, St. Reps. Jim Hansen and Ann Kelley introduced bills to the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. Both bills would provide up to a $500 tax deduction for teachers and administrators to use on supplies for the classroom.

"I don't think twice about purchasing things like that, that's going to help my kids be successful," Jamie Boyd, Laura Speed Elliot Middle School English and language arts teacher said.

The federal government already provides a $250 tax deduction. The new bills would be in addition to the federal deduction, adding up to up to a $750 tax deduction if signed into law.

"That money is being used wisely and so having [a tax deduction] in place to help bounce that back is so important as we continue with education," Boyd said.

According to a 2013 study done by the National School Supply and Equipment Association that was referenced during the hearing, almost all teachers spend their own money on supplies for the classroom, with the total money those teachers spent being upwards of $1.6 billion. 

She has been teaching for nine years. In her first year, she estimates she spent close to $1,000.

Emily Lee, a first year teacher at Moberly High School, said she spent $300 out of pocket in her first semester.

Everything from common supplies like pencils, to things like plastic organizers for students to turn their work in are what teachers like Boyd said they need to help students learn.

“We've got to do more," said Hansen, (R)-Frankford, to the committee. "[Lawmakers should do] what little we can do when it comes to what we pay teachers for what they are expected to do."

In Missouri, Hansen said there are about 69,000 K-12 teachers with their typical starting salary coming in at about $33,000, or $31,000 for more rural areas.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education estimates that these proposals would cost the state between $958,000 and $1.8 million with the current tax rate.

“I think it’s a small investment to make for our teachers of our $28.7-billion-dollar budget,” Hansen said.

The bills faced almost no opposition in the hearing, and many of the lobbyists and representatives hope this is the beginning of a larger conversation on changing teacher’s salaries.

[Editor's Note: This story is a Missouri School of Journalism collaboration with the Columbia Missiourian.]