Bill Would Grant Teachers Big Tax Break

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By Tom Chorneau

In an effort reduce the growing teacher shortage and improve retention rates, a bill pending before Sacramento lawmakers would exclude certified classroom instructors from paying state income taxes after five years of service.

The proposal, which could cost close to $610 million annually, would also provide a tax credit to cover teaching training costs, including tuition for a master’s degree.

“We’ve got to do something big and different,” said Bill Lucia, president of EdVoice, a non-profit advocacy group that helped draft SB 807. “We need to find better ways to get smart people to come into teaching and bring back some of them that have left.”

Although the bill has yet to be heard in committee and is not yet fully analyzed, it has four co-sponsors: Henry Stern, D-Agoura Hills, and Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, in the state Senate; and Monique Limon, D-Santa Barbara, and Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, in the Assembly.

Sen. Stern said that the Legislature needs to make this investment because the “teaching profession is critical to California’s economic success and impacts every vocation and profession in the state.

“SB 807 addresses the immediate teacher shortage and sends a loud and clear message across the state and nation:  California values teachers. We will help train you and we want you to stay in the classroom,” he said.

According to a February report from the Learning Policy Institute, as much as 75 percent of school districts in California report having some level of shortage in classroom teachers. They have resorted to hiring instructors not yet fully credentialed or who have substandard permits.

Expectations are that the shortage will likely deepen as the number of college students entering teacher preparation programs remains well below pre-recession highs. About 11,000 new credentials have been issued annually in California since 2013.

More than one-third of the existing workforce is age 50 or older.

As those teachers retire, schools will be facing even bigger shortages–especially for those serving students with disabilities and those teaching science and math.

SB 807, known as the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act, would sunset after 10 years and begin in January.

As proposed, the income tax exclusion would apply to teachers in the K-12 system who have a clear credential and have been a teacher of record for five years.

The tax credit would be eligible to anyone trying to become a new teacher in California. The qualified costs include:

  • Participation in a program of beginning teacher support assessment;
  • Tuition for a master’s degree leading to a clear teaching credential;
  • Certification assessments, including performance assessments; and
  • Tuition for years four and five in an integrated program of professional preparation.

Mr. Lucia noted that the bill requires the cost of the two benefits be paid for outside Prop. 98, the voter-approved minimum school funding mandate. While that provision will probably prove popular within the school community, it might also pose a barrier to getting support from Gov. Brown.

He has been steadfast in his effort to retire the “wall of debt” while also fighting off efforts by the Legislature to add any new, ongoing burdens on the general fund.


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