SIMMONS: D.C.’s incentive for teachers to live in city is a good idea

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Amid a flurry of legislative activity on Tuesday, approval of a $9.4 billion spending plan for the District’s 2013 fiscal year was an encouraging piece of tax legislation.

Introduced by D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange, the Public School Teachers Income Exclusion Act proposes granting tax breaks to teachers who work for D.C. public schools and live in the city. The only major caveat appears to be that a teacher must have taught a full academic year to become eligible.

Such a mandate seems reasonable when compared with other D.C. tax breaks, such as the D.C. homestead deduction, which grants property-tax breaks to homeowners who own and reside in homes in the District, and the first-time D.C. homebuyer credit, a federal deduction that mandates new homeowners stay in their homes for five years.

The teachers tax legislation is encouraging for a couple of reasons, chief among them that the tax break likely will mean teachers will be fully invested in the city’s education system and not merely collecting a paycheck to pay union dues.

As things stand now, when most D.C. public school educators and coaches leave our schoolhouses, their paychecks go with them to Maryland and Virginia.

These educators don’t have to worry about whether Jose and Keisha have learned a doggone thing. After all, they aren’t neighbors, and they don’t have to fret about whether their own children will mix with the wrong, uneducated crowd.

Mr. Orange’s legislation is important for another reason, too.

Holier-than-thou types generally don’t like measures such as this, and I’m not referring to truly good Samaritans.

I mean the safety-net advocates who cry a river about lost revenue every time phrases like “tax cut,” “tax credit,” “tax break” or “tax relief” are embedded in a piece of legislation.

It’s OK for poverty pimps to make a name for themselves for the sake of poor people. But ask them to support a measure that gives a break to folks whose income is above the poverty line, and they act as though they are being gagged by a silver spoon engraved with Queen Elizabeth’s family crest.

Take the very liberal D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI) by way of example.

In 2005, when the city first embraced legislation that would grant a tax break for D.C. teachers, DCFPI’s Ed Lazere raised both eyebrows.

First he questioned why nurses, librarians and the like weren’t receiving special treatment, too.

Then he questioned whether pocketbook issues were the real reason more teachers live in other jurisdictions.

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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