BCTF Applauds School Supply Tax Credit
Prince George, B.C. – The BC Teachers Federation says a provision contained in this week’s federal budget is welcome news but is just a starting point in supporting teachers who take money from their own pockets to educate our children.
The “Teacher and Early Childhood Educator School Supply Tax Credit” in the budget provides that as of January 1, 2016 an eligible educator (a person holding a valid teacher’s certificate in the province in which they are employed) can claim a 15% refundable tax credit on up to $1000 in eligible supplies for use in a school or regulated child care facility.
BCTF First Vice-president Glen Hansman, who becomes federation president July 1st, welcomes the tax credit and says “it is something that we and other teacher organizations across the country have called for for many years. It shouldn’t absolve provincial governments from funding the system properly though. We have to be clear on that because it’s recognized that currently teachers, not just here in BC but elsewhere across the country, are spending their own money on a wide variety of things that school districts should be picking up the tab for, and probably would, if the province better funded the system. We’ll see how the federal government rolls this out.”
However, Hansman says a 15% refund on a thousand dollars is pretty skimpy. “It’s not a huge amount, the things that they cite are things like paper, glue, paint, games, puzzles, supplementary books. I mean there are elementary teachers that spend a thousand or more annually for a wide variety of things that definitely fit within that category. What that looks like at the secondary level, it might not be the same amount, it will depend on the teacher, on the grade level I guess.”
“It’s welcome news in one sense, something that the BCTF has put to both the provincial and federal governments over the years to consider doing. The province of B.C. last budget year announced a Coaching Tax Credit and we came out against that, for one reason because it wasn’t available to all teachers. It was just a very narrow slice. And then there’s also the bigger picture of why should workers be spending their own money anyway to do their jobs? But it is recognized that teachers do spend quite a bit of their own out-of-pocket money.”
Hansman says it’s curious that this school supply tax credit is coming from the federal government and points to glaring underfunding of education by the Clark government in BC. “We know where they are on that, they think everything is hunky-dory, right? We have a pretty cordial relationship with the current minister of education but he does use similar speaking notes as his predecessors in terms of pointing to the highest funding ever which, in terms of actual dollars, is true. However that doesn’t mean that that dollar amount has actually kept pace with things like inflation and all of the costs that have been downloaded to school districts.”
“The Prince George school district, like others around the province, is quite concerned about the fact that they’re having to foot the bill for MSP increases, they’re footing the bill for hydro increases, the salary increases for principals and vice-principals this year, the province isn’t covering that either.”
“There’s all sorts of things that aren’t being covered and so boards are having to cut and aren’t able to purchase the sorts of supplies and new teaching resources, all the things that you would expect at any time including when all the curriculum is being changed all at once. Funding will definitely be an election issue in the spring of 2017.”