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No state taxes for California teachers for a decade. Unique bill seeks to pinch off the poachers

Mike Szymanski | March 10, 2017

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CalifSenHenrySternwith Students

California state Sen. Henry Stern with students. (Photo: Sen. Stern’s website)

To keep teachers from being poached across state lines and offset a serious teacher shortage, California lawmakers are looking at a first-ever proposal to exempt educators from state taxes for the next decade.

While some states have no income tax, the bill would make California the only state in the nation to allow teachers who have worked more than five years in the classroom to be exempt from all state tax obligations through 2027, which translates to a 4 percent to 6 percent raise.

It would also give tax credits to all new teachers to cover their training and credentialing costs.

“Teachers are the original job creators,” said state senator Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) in a statement Thursday who along with Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) introduced the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act of 2017 (SB 807). “The teaching profession is critical to California’s economic success and impacts every vocation and profession in the state.”

Bill Lucia EdVoice

Bill Lucia, president of EdVoice, which is sponsoring the bill. (Photo courtesy of EdVoice)

He said he was concerned about the immediate teacher shortage and said the bill “sends a loud and clear message across the state and nation: California values teachers. We will help train you, and we want you to stay in the classroom.”

Bill Lucia, president of EdVoice, announced Thursday that the educational advocacy group is sponsoring the legislation, also called the “Invest in Teachers Act.” He said the bill is unprecedented in the country and he expects that other states will also adopt the idea. “People look to California, and it’s time the state leads the nation and sends a clear message that teachers are valued in this state and California will reward your commitment to California’s kids and future,” Lucia said.

Lucia said too many teachers are trained in California and then move to other states. He said this bill would “welcome them back home.”

“Local school districts pay a lot of money, thousands of dollars, to train teachers,” Lucia said. “I do think that one of the big battlegrounds is not so much teachers going from district to district, but from one state to the other. We’re paying for their training and they are going across state lines.”

With five children in school, and a wife and grandmother who were teachers, Lucia said he is concerned with the continuing lack of good teachers. Statistics gathered by EdVoice show that teacher preparatory programs have plummeted 76 percent statewide in the past decade and more than 75 percent of school districts have a tough time filling positions, with low-income areas being hardest hit.

“We are facing an unprecedented critical shortage across the board in traditional and public charters, and right now we have 155,000 students in the state being taught by people who don’t have their full credentials,” Lucia said. “On top of that, one-third of teachers leave their profession in the first five years. Teachers leave the profession faster than first responders who go into burning buildings. That’s not sustainable.”

The bill could save a teacher making about $60,000 a total of about $2,500 in state taxes a year. The cost to exempt teachers from state taxes through 2027 is expected to cost $608.5 million a year, which Lucia emphasized “is a good investment at less than half of 1 percent of the $122.8 billion state general fund.” This also does not take out any money in the budget from teacher salaries.

Also, the bill will give tax credits to new teachers in their first five years of teaching who need to get their training to remain in the classroom and become fully credentialed. The cost for that is estimated at $9 million a year.

Teacher shortages are already notable in math, special education, engineering and computers, and many teachers can’t afford one-bedroom apartments in expensive areas such as San Francisco on a teacher salary, Lucia said.

“This is a big and bold idea to deal with the teacher shortage,” Lucia said. “It is not a one-time money spending bill, it’s a way to look at the big issue, and the legislature is reacting positively to it.”

Assemblymember Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), who was a school board member, said in a statement, “I know that keeping great teachers in the classroom is critical to closing achievement gaps.”

TeachersEdvVoice AM

(Courtesy of EdVoice)

State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) added, “Our state’s future and students simply cannot afford shortages. As we work to attract and retain highly effective teachers we must also ensure schoolchildren learn from individuals with diverse backgrounds in both race and gender.”

Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) said, “Teacher turnover has a significant, negative effect on student achievement, particularly for students in high-poverty, high-minority schools like those in my district.”

The bill does not have to go the voters for approval, but EdVoice launched a petition to show that support for it goes beyond just teachers. The bill is expected to be heard at the end of March or early April in the state senate’s Governance and Finance Committee.

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