POSTED BY THE EAGLE TRIBUNE, Friday, December 5, 2014 12:15 am
By Doug Ireland firstname.lastname@example.org
DERRY — Every year, educators such as Margaret Morse-Barry spend hundreds of dollars of their own money to buy classroom supplies. They aren’t reimbursed for those expenses.
So last year when a federal tax deduction for teachers who purchase classroom items was set to expire, the Derry special education coordinator sent a letter to Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., to express her concern.
That $250 tax deduction may now became permanent and provide teachers with some financial relief after the U.S. House passed legislation Wednesday introduced by Shea-Porter and inspired by Morse-Barry.
Morse-Barry, who is also president of the Derry Education Association, said teachers typically spend some of their own money because tight school budgets in Derry and other communities make it difficult to fulfill all of students’ needs.
“Our school district provides a lot, but there are still holes,” Morse-Barry said. “All of us spend money on our classrooms and we don’t get reimbursed.”
Morse-Barry was elated to learn that House Resolution 3318 passed, 378-46, in the U.S. House. It’s called the Reimburse Educators who Pay for Academic Year Supplies Act, or REPAY.
The legislation is now headed to the U.S. Senate for approval, possibly as early as next week, as part of a bipartisan package, according to Shea-Porter’s spokeswoman Marjorie Connolly. No major opposition is expected.
“I am very happy that when teachers file their taxes next year, they’ll have this modest recognition of the financial sacrifices they make for our kids,” Shea-Porter said in a statement. “The classroom expense deduction lets us put some of that money in teachers’ pockets, mitigating the financial sacrifices they make on behalf of their students.”
A few months after receiving the letter from Morse-Berry, Shea-Porter visited South Range Elementary School in October 2013.
She spoke of her legislation and met Morse-Barry, nicknamed Meg, and other Derry educators. They included South Range principal Matthew Olsen and Superintendent Laura Nelson.
“I think it’s great what the congresswoman did and that she took the time to come to our school,” Olsen said Thursday. “It was a big issue for Meg to take on and justify.”
Morse-Barry said she usually spends $200 to $300 annually on items while her husband, Stephen, a math teacher in Portsmouth, regularly doles out $500 to $700 each year.
Six Derry special education teachers share the $600 cost of a program for their students, she said.
Morse-Berry also said teachers must purchase their own laptop computers to properly educate children in an age of technological advancement.
“We have 21st-century children and our lessons need to be developed for their needs,” Morse-Barry said.
Olsen said it’s no exaggeration that teachers expend a substantial amount each year for their students.
“Teachers do spend several hundred dollars a year on their classrooms,” he said.
George Strout agreed. He’s the spokesman for National Education Association-NH.
Strout said studies show teachers spend roughly between $250 and $1,000 on their classrooms.
“I would easily say teachers spend an average of $500 a year,” he said.
Connolly said the National Education Association is just one of many education organizations to support the bill.
“It’s a recognition of what (teachers) do,” Strout said. “They see a need and feel they have to do something about it. It’s just something ingrained in someone who chooses this profession.”
Other organizations that back the legislation include the American Federation of Teachers, the New Hampshire School Administrators Association and the National Associations of Elementary School and Secondary School principals, Connolly said.