Friday Reading List: Teachers & Tax Reform, Elite Public Schools, and Reclaiming Identity Politics

Andrew Ujifusa of Education Week looks at how average teachers might experience the tax bill that's meandering through Congress right now:

We reported in August that the average public school teacher makes a base salary of $55,100 annually, and that this average teacher works 53 hours a week and has 14 years of teaching experience, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s School and Staffing Survey. The Joint Committee on Taxation in Congress reported last week that under the GOP legislation, the average tax rate for individuals—not specifically teachers—making between $50,000 and $75,000 annually would on average fall from 14.8 percent to 13.6 percent in 2019. That means a $660 tax cut on average for that teacher, from $8,154 to $7,494. However, by 2027, the average tax rate would rise under the tax proposal to 14 percent for individuals in that income bracket. That would leave the average teacher with a $275 tax cut in 2027, compared to 2017.

Ujifusa adds that the bill would remove some deductions that might affect individual teachers, and that these calculations do not account for joint filing with a spouse or partner.

Ben Casselman and Tara Siegel Bernard of The New York Times included a teacher's perspective in their news analysis of the bill:

For many, the offsetting provisions in the bill are difficult to figure out. Amy and Ben Powell, who live in Louisville, Ky., with their toddler son, collectively earn roughly $80,000. Mr. Powell is a choir teacher at a local middle school, while Ms. Powell works part time at a local coffee shop. They both work on the weekend, in their church, for extra cash: He is the music director and she leads the choir’s altos to make sure they are on key. The couple generally prepare their tax return together through TurboTax, which she said makes it pretty clear which tax breaks help them the most: the child tax credit, their mortgage deduction, student loan interest, the credit for teachers who buy supplies for their classroom, and charitable giving.

I am not a tax expert and cannot opine on the broader economics of this tax bill. That said, whenever Congress changes the nature of rates and credits, some families and corporations will end up paying more in taxes, and others will pay less. Until the bill is completed, it's hard to tell exactly who the relative winners and losers will be.

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Mike Elsen-Rooney is in The Hechinger Report looking at the way selective public schools are funded:

When New York City officials revamped the way public schools were funded more than a decade ago, they emphasized one goal above the others: Making school spending more equitable in the nation’s largest system. They also included a provision that critics say is doing just the opposite: an annual bonus of almost $1,000 per student at 13 of the city’s elite high schools, where students are wealthier than the city average and alumni foundations can raise millions of dollars for extras. That means that students at these schools — where only 15 percent of students are black or Hispanic, compared to almost 70 percent citywide — are getting almost $18 million more this year than they would have without the bonus, according to Department of Education data.

I encountered a similar phenomenon when I was an official at the DC Public Schools, where selective high schools received inequitable bonuses all the time. There are a bunch of interesting takeaways here, so you should read the whole article. One critical piece, though, is the notion that inequity can exist within school district boundaries, because of this sort of revenue distribution. When policymakers pitch redistricting and integration as a panacea for inequity, keep this fact in mind.

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Finally today, Anne Branigin is in The Root with an important take on the debate over identity politics:

What defines identity politics now is its focus on intersectionality, on multiple identities and how they inform the way Americans experience things like debt, employment, housing and policing. Advocates of identity politics would point out that intersectionality informs a class discussion, rather than detracts from it. Nonetheless, it’s this specific iteration of identity politics that has drawn criticism not just from the right but from self-described liberals and progressives like Mark Lilla, whose book The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics argues that identity politics will break the Democratic Party.

What I like about Branigin's piece is that she is explicit about the fact that identity politics are not about articulating grievances, but rather about describing the way that various political identities lead to inequitable economic and social outcomes. Take some time to read the article over the weekend, particularly if you're inclined to disagree with her perspective.

Have a great weekend!