Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer seeks to get more New York teachers to take advantage of a tax deduction for the purchase of classroom supplies.
The educator expense deduction is available for teachers who buy books, computers and other supplies for their classroom. They may deduct up to $250 a year for classroom-related expenses.
The tax break became permanent in 2015, when a major bill, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015, was signed by then-President Barack Obama. The deduction was included in the tax package.
Some New York educators have already used the deduction. Schumer, D-N.Y., cited Internal Revenue Service data from 2015 that found 258,100 of the state's 490,000 public school teachers claimed the deduction. The remaining 48 percent, including 103,000 upstate teachers, did not.
"To think some teachers aren't using this tax cut really is bothersome," Schumer said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
To encourage more teachers to use the deduction, Schumer is launching a public awareness campaign. There are 214,850 upstate teachers who could deduct up to $53.7 million, according to Schumer's office.
In central New York, 27,238 teachers may be eligible to deduct $6.8 million in classroom expenses.
Teachers often buy their own classroom supplies due to the limited availability of funds, especially in high-need school districts. The National Education Association found in the 2012-13 school year that teachers spent $1.6 billion of their own money on classroom-related expenses.
Schumer also cited the United Federation of Teachers, which reported that newer teachers spent an average of $581 on classroom expenses in their first three years.
New York state teachers spend an average of $485 on classroom supplies, according to Schumer.
"That's not right," he said.
Schumer is hopeful that more teachers will claim the deduction. He noted that school has resumed in New York and teachers are buying supplies.
The ability to deduct classroom expenses, he said, will give teachers a "little bit of a break."
"This is now law. It's permanent law," he said. "Everyone who lays out an expense should take advantage."