Granger crosses teachers’ unions on school supplies tax break

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis.,is joined by, from left, Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., and Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis.,is joined by, from left, Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., and Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas. AP

Fort Worth Rep. Kay Granger wants a reputation as a big supporter of education, tweeting Tuesday that she is "committed to ensuring that teachers have the resources they need."

But Granger, a former high school English teacher, is crossing local teachers unions on one of the issues they most passionately oppose — a provision in the Republican tax plans that would end the $250 deduction teachers can get when they buy their own school supplies.

Teachers associations in Texas have protested that change loudly, saying it helps educators provide supplies for students who can’t afford them.

“Congress historically has recognized the amount of money teachers spend out of pocket for supplies. That’s why the tax credit is there in the first place,” said Steven Poole, executive director of the Fort Worth-based United Educators Association.

“Without that tax credit, it’s just another burden on teachers,” said Poole.

Granger countered that the average American’s tax break under the GOP’s tax plan will more than offset the $250 deduction.

The House is expected to vote on the tax plan Thursday.

“As a former teacher, I want to do everything possible to help educators,” she said in a statement. House Republicans’ plan “would benefit teachers more than the current educator expense deduction does by giving teachers a $1,200 tax cut.”

Granger cited a report from the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based research group, that said the GOP plan will “create 81,108 jobs for Texans and increase the median Texan household income by $2,558.”

Granger declined an interview on the subject. Democrats argued that the tax bill wouldn’t help all middle class families. Not all teachers would benefit, they said.

Vanessa Adia, a teacher and Democrat running against Granger in 2018, has railed against the plan’s elimination of tax breaks for teachers and students.

“[Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell recently admitted that not all middle class families will get a tax cut,” she said. Many of those families, Adia said, are in Granger’s district.

Teachers’ unions said the break is also important for symbolic reasons, because it acknowledges the personal sacrifices teachers make to provide supplies for their students.

“We know that our teachers spend a lot of money out of their own pocket on school supplies,” said Louis Malfaro, president of the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

Malfaro said the current deduction “doesn’t come anywhere near the actual cost,” of teacher-purchased supplies.

Teachers in Fort Worth have been particularly pressed for resources. Tarrant County school districts lost federal dollars this year after changes were made to a program aimed at low income students, even as the state’s total funding increased from $1.37 billion to $1.4 billion.

Granger’s office was actively promoting her support for educators on Twitter Tuesday, in honor of American Education Week.

“As a parent, former school teacher, and the daughter of an educator, I have seen firsthand the vital importance of receiving a good education,” Granger tweeted Tuesday.

Poole said Granger has been an ally in the past, and his group would be reaching out to discuss the issue.

“She is a former teacher, she does understand the plight of teachers and how they spend money out of pocket,” said Poole. “It’s a matter now of how are we going to adequately supply teachers with what they need?”

Andrea Drusch: 202-383-6056, @AndreaDrusch

House Speaker Paul Ryan outlined Thursday the savings Americans are projected to receive if the GOP tax plan becomes law.