A hell of a way to thank someone...
April 17, 2002 11:00 PM   Subscribe

A hell of a way to thank someone... "Teachers would keep more money in their pocket each payday and send less of it to the IRS...Hard-earned money always goes further in a household than in a rat hole."

Sen. Zell Miller (D-GA) wants to attract teachers and keep them...by decreasing or removing their income tax liability. As an aspiring teacher, I like the idea...but does it actually have legs, or does the legislation have the proverbial snowball's chance of survival? Has any politician ever tried to introduce a bill that would give a tax cut to a particular profession? How did it fare? Discuss amongst yourselves.
posted by Spinderella56 (20 comments total)
 
The only instance I know of is the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System which is for city, county and state employees which includes teachers, police, etc. Although they pay taxes when working, they pay no state taxes when retired. This created a lawsuit which went to the US Supreme Court, brought and won by Federal retirees who wanted equal treatment. OPERS is a very large & strong lobby/PAC whom state politicians turn to in times of need. Oh, the politicians have put themselves in this system also.
posted by Mack Twain at 11:55 PM on April 17, 2002


Sounds like a bad idea for me.... they use services.... they should pay taxes. Just like everybody else.
posted by dancu at 12:17 AM on April 18, 2002


While it's a lovely idea in theory, teachers are not the only ones who provide a crucial societal service for a relatively low rate of pay. If we're going to make teachers tax-exempt, how about military and veterans? Police, fire and EMS workers? What about garbage collectors -- I surely wouldn't want to live in a city without them, would you? It's a nice idea, long on feel-good sentiment, short on logic.
posted by Dreama at 12:28 AM on April 18, 2002


you know.. the wall street journal named a 'college education' as the best investment you could ever make (on the basis of return's vs. investment). I wonder how this translates into pre-college schooling. I think that unfortunately our culture views this time of learning as a cross to bear.. instead of as an opportunity for investing in kids (- those little people that will be taking care of us as we get older..) Teachers systematically get record low pay, bad working conditions, and little support from parents. It's a tough gig.

I wonder if instead of giving an outright 'tax break' (which every federal worker can contest), teachers were instead offered a federal 'grant' for the balance of their individual income taxes for that year. The word 'grant' is common to an educational vocabulary, and it literally means 'a giving of funds for a specific purpose' (educating the little people). They could claim it along with their taxes, and receive a nice hefty 'grant' check just in time for their summer break. I don't think that would be a bad deal.
posted by jazzkat11 at 12:39 AM on April 18, 2002


> While it's a lovely idea in theory, teachers are not the
> only ones who provide a crucial societal service for a
> relatively low rate of pay.

If it's a matter of need, though, it may be necessary to give special breaks to one group and not to others.

If the fire department, for example, has no problem attracting and keeping personnel, the government doesn't need to do anything special to make sure fires are being put out properly. If the government can't otherwise get stingy, shortsighted school districts to pay good wages to attract and keep smart, well-educated, motivated, effective teachers, maybe it needs to do something like this.

The point is not to be unthinkingly "fair" in taxation -- people are given all sorts of tax breaks for all sorts of stupid things that are much less important than the education of children -- but to solve an important national problem by making teaching perhaps a little more attractive in comparison to some overpopulated professions. Couldn't the US do without a few lawyers? A few plastic surgeons? A few unemployed web designers?
posted by pracowity at 1:27 AM on April 18, 2002


I've never understood why government employees even pay taxes. Why not just pay them less in the first place? The money's going back where it came from anyway; it's just more paperwork.
posted by dagny at 2:24 AM on April 18, 2002


sounds great to me, both of my parents are teachers...then they would have more money to spend on me
posted by hazelmeg at 5:21 AM on April 18, 2002


> I've never understood why government employees
> even pay taxes.

So they can make up a lot of shit about deductions and thereby keep more.

No, I agree, it's stupid. The whole tax system is stupid. It freaks people out.

In general, the government should always withhold about what you're going to owe, then pay you back, with interest, what it shouldn't have taken.

And filing tax returns should then be optional and flexible: if you don't want to do it, you don't have to. The government would then just keep your money.

If you do want file, you should be able to file any time up to, say, five or seven years after the income was earned. If the government doesn't trust you, it could demand that you file so it could check everything, but otherwise, if you'ea regular person, you could just ignore tax day. There would be no tax day.

People would still complain -- people will always complain, mainly because so many people expect everything for nothing -- but the stress level for most people would be cut way back, and the difference in cash taken home would probably be about the same, maybe better for a lot of people, considering that the government would pay interest on money that most people would just use to buy Cheez Whiz.
posted by pracowity at 5:28 AM on April 18, 2002


since state and local governments pay teachers' salaries, what would prevent them from simply reducing teacher salaries and pocketing the difference?

An easier way to do this is to simply increase the Federal share of education spending. After all, there is no economic difference between a tax cut and a government subsidy.
posted by boltman at 5:40 AM on April 18, 2002


The reason a tax cut or 'grant' system is better than other funding solutions is that 100% of the dollars goes to the teachers without passing through administration/parents' hands. One of the biggest problems with financing public education is that there are so many people trying to get a cut for their own pet project or salary that the teachers and students rarely see a dime of any additional money that goes into a district. This solution would actually manage to get some money past the bloodsuckers in the institution.
posted by plaino at 6:17 AM on April 18, 2002


Miller's statement in the Congressional Record.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:18 AM on April 18, 2002


Here's another case of "from each according to his ability to each according to his needs". Commissars can't allocate resources efficiently, only free markets can. How many failures will it take before the utopian dream of socialism dies out?
posted by mikegre at 6:46 AM on April 18, 2002


This is flat-out dumb. If you want teachers to get more money, pay them more. Adding another layer of social engineering to the tax code pretty much the worst way imaginable to get more money to teachers.
posted by NortonDC at 6:51 AM on April 18, 2002


Miller says this is about keeping good teachers in schools. I'm sure that extra few grand is tempting, but if you're driving your Lexus to the same underfunded mess with an A/V department consisting of a pawn shop Zenith and a beat up VCR and books from the turn of the century the private sector still looks tempting. There's money and then there's working conditions/job satisfaction. It looks like the money would be a temporary fix to keep those borderline quitters and attract fresh out of school teachers, neither of whom make up the quality and experienced teacher demographic.

Worse, instead of funding schools for a better experience for teacher and students alike, Miller just wants to work the "bribes work for me, they'll work for you" fix-all mentality.
posted by skallas at 7:50 AM on April 18, 2002


There is already some tax relief for teachers. None of my earnings as a substitute teacher are subject to Social Security taxes. The same is true of other teachers I know. Relief from income taxes would be a big incentive toward being a full-time teacher at a lower salaried district.
posted by neuroshred at 7:54 AM on April 18, 2002


This is flat-out dumb. If you want teachers to get more money, pay them more. Adding another layer of social engineering to the tax code pretty much the worst way imaginable to get more money to teachers.

No, you are flat out dumb. Mandating higher pay for teachers under the current system just means higher property taxes. Is that what you want? Instead, if the feds cover the bill (through tax breaks, etc.) it will come out of some other budget or roll into a deficit spending situation because the feds are more gun-shy about raising taxes (at least as long as Bush and co. are in power). One of the biggest misconceptions is that schools are federally funded. That is wrong. They are locally funded. The federal govt. provides only 9% of the total public education expenditure, and threatens even that paltry amount to force down the school districts throats high-stakes testing and other 'public appeasement' policies.
posted by plaino at 10:30 AM on April 18, 2002


plaino - Here's a clue, free of charge: critique the post, not the poster. I stopped reading at the point you personally insulted me.
posted by NortonDC at 11:04 AM on April 18, 2002


Ok. Your post was flat-out dumb.
posted by plaino at 11:48 AM on April 18, 2002


What about it was dumb?
posted by NortonDC at 11:55 AM on April 18, 2002


The reason a tax cut or 'grant' system is better than other funding solutions is that 100% of the dollars goes to the teachers without passing through administration/parents' hands.

As I tried to point out above, the only way this would work is if you gave the Feds complete control over teacher salaries. Otherwise, local governments will simply cut teacher wages (or, more likely, allow wages to stagnate) until teachers' net income equals to what it was when they were still paying taxes. So the end result is that teachers are no better off, and everyone else resents the teachers because they are percieved as getting a special benefit when they really aren't.

The only places where this program might actually provide a net gain for teachers are regions where there is a shortage of teachers and the local government can't afford to raise salaries enough to fix the problem. But, clearly, there are better ways to boost salaries in those regions than an indiscriminate Federal tax break (like targeted block grants)
posted by boltman at 12:26 PM on April 18, 2002


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