By Shelby Mullis
Public school employees hope a proposed tax deduction could help close the gap between public and private school families.
Parents of children enrolled in private schools or homeschooled are already able to deduct up to $1,000 on their taxes for money spent on textbooks, computer software and school supplies.
Now the Indiana Department of Education wants to extend the deduction to public school families as well.
“I think it would bring some equality to what has taken place over the last few years in regard to what tax breaks were allowing private school parents to achieve,” said Paul Kaiser, superintendent of Beech Grove City Schools.
While Kaiser would prefer the state to cover textbook and transportation costs, he said every cost-cutting measure helps.
“It’s a tremendous benefit, especially for some of our parents who have three or four kids,” Kaiser said. “Our textbooks here at Beech Grove are reasonable. We charge $150. Other districts charge between $400 and $500. That’s huge for a family.”
But for Marion Community Schools, the deduction may not be as beneficial as it would be to other districts. The proposal does not extend to families who already qualify for free or reduced textbooks. In Marion, 82 percent of families qualify for free or reduced textbooks.
“This is a high-poverty area,” Director of Special Education Lynn Gossner said. “That middle class section, with regard to folks who would be eligible for the deduction that’s referenced, doesn’t apply to a great deal of our population here in this community. However, anything we can do to promote and assist families so that opportunities are granted for our students is just so important to us.”
Brad Lindsay, superintendent of Marion Community Schools, said he’s interested in opportunities that could assist all families in his district, but also agreed that the proposed tax deduction would still have an impact on a great number of parents in the area.
“We’re looking at equity access, anything that we can do to help all kids. I don’t care what school—private, parochial, charter, homeschool, public schools,” Lindsay said.
Indiana legislators will have the opportunity to consider the textbook tax deduction during the 2017 legislative session.