Teachers could be reimbursed for classroom supplies under Senate proposal

Laura+Howard+and+Katie+Cunniff+of+Dressel+Elementary+School+show+excitement+for+their+2018+Spirit+of+Lindbergh+teacher+grant+from+the+Lindbergh+Schools+Foundation+Jan.+4%2C+2019.

Laura Howard and Katie Cunniff of Dressel Elementary School show excitement for their 2018 Spirit of Lindbergh teacher grant from the Lindbergh Schools Foundation Jan. 4, 2019.

By Madison Czopek
Missouri News Network

JEFFERSON CITY — A bill that would help teachers cover out-of-pocket classroom supply costs received strong support at a Missouri Senate hearing Tuesday.

Senate Bill 583, proposed by Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, would allow educators at public, private and religious schools to deduct up to $500 of the unreimbursed money they spend on classroom supplies such as books, computer software and other miscellaneous supplies.

Matt Michelson, speaking for the Missouri State Teachers Association or MSTA, said that his organization has been focused on the issue of recruiting and retaining teachers and indicated that research shows two main barriers: salary and administrative support.

“I think this bill would really be a good step — not a magic bullet, obviously — but something to say we support our teachers and work on some of those recruitment and retention issues,” Michelson said.

Ben Martin, executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Arts Education, testified in favor of the bill, reflecting on his 34 years as a teacher and challenges he faced, usually from lack of resources. He highlighted particular difficulties that arts teachers face because those supplies are often costly.

“Arts teachers have special challenges in these areas. I remember sometimes having to purchase stage makeup or costume pieces or lighting and sound equipment to make sure that our students had what they needed to complete the goals that we’d set in a theater technology class or even in a basic theater class,” Martin said.

Martin said the bill recognizes the sacrifice educators make to stock their classrooms and eases some of the burden on teachers.

Legislative analysts estimated that when fully implemented, this bill would result in up to a $1.8 million loss in state revenue. Arthur, a former middle-school teacher, said the tax break is a worthy reason for the revenue loss.

“I think we all would like to see an increase in funding for teachers’ salaries but recognize that limitations in our budget make that difficult,” Arthur said. “So this is just a very modest proposal that would allow teachers the opportunity to keep more of their hard-earned dollars.”

Multiple other organizations voiced support for the bill, including the Missouri Charter Public School Association, the Missouri National Education Association or MNEA, the Missouri School Counselor Association and the Missouri School Boards’ Association or MSBA. No one testified against the bill.

Currently at the federal level, educators can deduct up to $250 from their federal income taxes to cover the out-of-pocket cost of school supplies.

Supervising editor is Virginia Young.