California considers exempting teachers from state income tax

A new bill in the California Senate would scrap state income taxes for teachers in the state, as part of an effort to combat a growing teacher shortage and to encourage higher-aptitude individuals to enter the profession.

“The teaching profession is critical to California’s economic success and impacts every vocation and profession in the state,” state Sen. Henry Stern said in a statement. “SB807 addresses the immediate teacher shortage and sends a loud and clear message across the state and nation: California values teachers.”

Senate Bill 807 would exempt teachers from paying state income tax after teaching for five years and would also provide a tax deduction for costs relating to obtaining credentials.

It comes at a time when California is scrambling to hire teachers, as between 20 percent to 40 percent of teachers leave the profession after the first five years, according to recent research, and the amount of teachers is at a 12-year low.

But critics say it’s an impractical solution to combating the problem of poor-performing schools.

“If you take an entire class of people based on their occupation and say that they are somehow ‘more deserving’ than everyone else and should be exempted from paying state income taxes, what other groups might qualify?” conservative commentator Jazz Shaw, writing for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, argued.

The bill comes at a time when proficiency rates among California students still are under 50 percent, as 49 percent in English and just 37 percent in math scored proficient on CAASP tests in 2016, with minority students scoring even lower.

It’s also unclear what effect the bill would have, as opponents have noted it appears to be a measure to provide monies to veteran teachers, where retention is less of an issue, at the expense of the taxpayer.

Furthermore, the starting salaries at even small high schools stands near $44,000, just slightly less than the median household income in the U.S., which stands at around $50,000.

If teachers are exempt from paying income tax, is raises the question of what other occupations may qualify due to their perceived importance in society.

Details on the effect on tax revenues have not been released and the California Teacher Association has so far not taken a position on the proposed legislation.

Tags assigned to this article:
income taxteachersSB807Henry Stern

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