As California legislators last week were sailing through the list of bills necessary to approve the 2006-07 budget deal, there was a slight snag in the Assembly after Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, a career junior high civics teacher in the Moorpark schools, rose to complain about what she saw as a raw deal for teachers.
In a year when there was enough money to settle past scores with schoolchildren, college students, transportation agencies and other groups who'd taken hits during hard times, Pavley wondered why teachers were again at the back of the line.
Included in the budget deal, she complained, was another suspension of a teacher tax credit -- meaning that teachers will again have to forego tax about $165 million in state income tax credits. These credits, established in 2001, were designed to compensate teachers for the out-of-pocket expenses they inevitably incur buying supplies for their classrooms. Pavley read off a long list, starting with boxes of Kleenex, and including crayons, DVDs, poster board -- all the little things that make a classroom work.
For experienced teachers, the credits are supposed to amount to $1,500 a year.
Pavley said she understood when the credit was suspended in 2002 to help the state close a crippling deficit. And she didn't complain in 2004, when it was suspended again. She griped a little when it was taken off the books in 2005. But in 2006, she said, there was no reason to single out teachers as the only group in the state slated for a tax increase.
She withheld her vote on the bill to suspend the tax credit, and was joined by a handful of fellow Democrats. Not until after a brief Democratic caucus did the protesters reluctantly put up their votes.