Teachers' tax deduction saved from fiscal cliff cuts

Teachers spend money for supplies from their own pockets.

Have you gotten your first paycheck of the year? You're getting less because tax deductions have expired.

Your child's school teachers are breathing a sigh of relief after Congress renewed the educator expense deduction. The loss of the deduction could have impacted what your child's teachers could do for them in the classroom.

When it comes to teaching the "Three Rs" - reading, writing and arithmetic - so much has changed.

"It takes a little creativity. It takes organization and it takes money," said Washington Woods Elementary School first grade teacher Amanda Thompson

It is money teachers like Thompson spend from their own pockets.

"All of the books, all of the baskets, everything in there, I had to purchase with my own money," said Thompson, pointing to a reading nook she created in the corner of her classroom. "Every basket's a dollar. Every book's going to be over a dollar and I have over 500 books right there."

For the past several years, Thompson has gotten $250 back at tax time, thanks to the educator expense deduction. It was set to expire, but Congress renewed it for another five years as part of the fiscal cliff deal.

"A beginning teacher, your first five years, it has to be at least $1,000," explained Thompson of the money she spent when she first started teaching.

"I would say I've probably already spent three or four hundred dollars this year," said fellow first grade teacher Rachel Cochran.

Cochran said most teachers aren't in the field to get rich. Teaching and the students are their passion.

"Whether or not I'm being reimbursed, I'm going to do it so that these kids can all have the education that they deserve," Cochran added.

There is help for some teachers, like the ones in Marion County who can come to a place called "Teachers' Treasures" and take home free supplies every month.

"Last year we gave away about $3.8 million worth of merchandise," said Teachers' Treasures Executive Director Barb Sweeny.

The non-profit helped nearly 2,000 teachers in Marion County schools, where 40 percent or more of the students get free or reduced lunches.

"Those are the kids that can't afford to bring the supplies to school," said Sweeny.

So teachers like Kayla Seedborg, who just started teaching, spend their own money if they can't find what they need here.

"Just to make it my classroom, I had to spend $200," said Seedborg of her new math teacher position.

Seedborg will still get that money back, but probably put right back into her classroom.

"These are my kids," she said.

Because for many teachers, it's not about the money. Not even close.

"You come into this field of education with the passion to help kids learn," said Cochran.

It's that kind of passion, you can't put a price on.