Sunday, January 11, 2009

No Taxes for Teachers

Ten years ago, when I was teaching high school in Illinois, a colleague of mine and I came up with what we believed to be one of the best ideas in addressing issues of the teaching profession and public school reform - no income taxes for teachers. It seemed to be the perfect plan, considering school districts often struggle to pay competitive wages while balancing budgets, people constantly claim teachers are dramatically underpaid, and critics lament the ability of education to draw the best and brightest of students. While I've never complained about teacher pay - I'm actually quite comfortable with the income I earn - and I don't agree that money is the reason the best people don't enter or remain in the profession, I think a lot of good could come from the no-taxes-for-teachers plan. Now, someone has said it in a larger forum than teachers' lounges and my blog. Thomas Friedman's commentary in the New York Times today proposes investment in education - including an exemption from federal income taxes - as an integral idea for the stimulus plans of the Obama administration.

There are some problems with this assumption, notably the idea that we want the kind of people who would be primarily motivated by this incentive to become teachers. In fact, there is much to argue that "the best and brightest" don't always make the best teachers, and financial compensation shouldn't be a motivation for educators. However, the kind of investment in education that Friedman proposes has a lot of relevance, in that any stimulus plan should create a stronger society with motivated innovators like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates who are inspired by their math and science classes. Obviously, this doesn't simply come from modifications to teacher pay - Friedman makes other salient points about who is teaching and how and why. Yet, I am pleased that my idea is gaining some tractions. Can't wait for my windfall.


Mrs. C said...

Ok, so if I were a billionaire living on my stock interest, and I taught... and I'd get NO TAXES on any of my income??? WOO-hoo!

Under this plan, you'd get all the wealthy set coming in to teach and taking the kids on field trips to the golf course and Uncle Teddy's yacht. :]

Not that that's a bad thing. But it would result IMO in a very big budget problem for states if all the rich people started teaching to benefit from this loophole.

Or maybe you just meant no income tax on the teacher salary part? That would draw more middle-class teachers raising children sort of people, I would imagine.

What do you think?

mazenko said...

Oh, there are far more drawbacks than benefits to this idea, though I wouldn't turn it down. Realistically, it is unnecessary, as many great teachers enter and remain in the profession despite the lack of such an incentive, as well as the reality that they might make more in the private sector. It's simply not about the money, in my opinion - but, like I said, if Friedman wants to exempt my taxes, who am I to disagree.

Darren said...

I'm sure our police, firefighters, doctors, nurses, and military members will *love* this plan! said...

Corporations are persons. An entity incorporated as a teacher, or a teacher incorporated as an entity, hummmm!!!; this could conceivably be the start of the next economic bubble. I really love this Idea. Investors, meet me at the free lunch line.