Teachers now get a higher tax deduction for supplies they buy. It's still totally insulting.

The new amount still doesn't come close to covering what teachers pay out of pocket.

teachers, classroom, taxes
Photo by Monica Sedra on Unsplash

The IRS raised the tax deduction limit for teachers from $250 to $300.

When I first saw the headline that the IRS was raising the tax deduction limit for teachers buying classroom supplies with their own money—you know, the necessary items to do their jobs well—I was thrilled. The previous deduction of $250 was laughable, a virtual slap in the face to professionals who regularly spend two, three or four times that amount per year buying supplies for their students out of their own pocket.

But when I saw the amount the deduction was raised to, I rage laughed. $300? Are you kidding me?

It sounds great to say, "We're raising the tax deduction for teachers by 20%" until you realize that the teacher deduction hasn't been raised since 2002 and that 20% increase is a measly $50.

Fifty bucks spread over 20 years is $2.50 a year. Whoop dee frickin' do. That doesn't even come close to keeping up with inflation, for the love. Just to keep up with inflation, that $250 deduction from two decades ago should be over $400 now.

And again, even that amount wouldn't be close to enough. An AdoptaClassroom survey of 5,400 PreK-12 teachers at public, private and charter schools across the U.S. found that teachers spent an average of $750 out of their own pockets for school supplies during the 2020-21 school year. About 30% spent more than $1,000.

In the face of that reality, raising the deduction limit from $250 to $300 is ridiculous, gross, rude, disrespectful and insulting. Teachers are professionals who are already paid less than what they're worth. The fact that they have to buy supplies out of their own pockets at all is a travesty. The least we can do is let them deduct whatever they spend out of their taxes.

I've been a teacher and I've also been a business owner. The number of things a business owner can legally deduct is bonkers. You can deduct so many things from your business income that you pay zero taxes on it, and we're putting this painfully low limit on out-of-pocket teacher supplies? Why? Who wins here?

Honestly, why do we even have a deduction limit for teachers at all? It feels like whoever makes these decisions either doesn't fully trust teachers or thinks they aren't deserving of reasonable compensation. I mean, how much do they really think teachers are going to be able to deduct here even if there were no limit? Newsflash: Teachers aren't rolling in extra dough. They're not looking for ways to game the tax system to avoid tax liability. They're literally spending their own money on their jobs—which is ridiculous—and hoping to get some back from the very same government that employs and pays them.

In recent years, some teachers have shared that they're simply refusing to buy classroom supplies out of their own pocket anymore, pointing out that it doesn't solve the problem, but masks it. It's also simply not doable for many. The teaching profession tends to draw people who are willing to make sacrifices for kids, which is admirable, but financial sacrifice should not be an expectation inherent in the job.

When I say teachers aren't paid what they are worth, I mean it literally. People who haven't worked in a classroom have no idea. The energy it entails, the responsibility it requires, the emotional toll it takes and the time outside of school hours dedicated to the work are beyond any other job I've ever had. Yes, the work can be rewarding, but a lot of times it isn't. In no other profession do we expect people to do so much for so little.

It's not just that teachers deserve to be paid well. (Not merely adequately, but well.) Our kids also deserve teachers who are valued by everyone around them. They deserve teachers who have all the resources they need to educate to the best of their ability. They deserve beautiful learning environments and classrooms full of learning materials that their teachers didn't have to dip into their wallets to pay for. They deserve to live in a society that prioritizes education above everything else, a society that understands quality education is the root of solutions to most problems.

Teachers are quitting in droves and many of those who are staying are barely hanging on. We can't afford to keep losing good teachers. Money isn't the only reason teachers are quitting, but it doesn't help. Let's drop the tax deduction limit altogether. It's quite literally the least we can do.

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level


Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21

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