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News - Should teachers get a special break on federal income taxes?

Yes. America needs dedicated career teachers, and Zell Miller's proposal is the best idea in years to attract them.

We need

to attract and retain quality teachers, by any means necessary. It is an irrefutable fact that America is facing a crisis in the teaching profession. In some areas of the country, school systems are dealing with teacher shortages, and the profession at large is suffering from a severe retention problem. Some studies indicate a teacher attrition rate as high as 80 percent within the first five years.

And it's no wonder. Teaching is a high-demand, low-paying job, and those who choose to enter the profession are subjected to all manner of abuse from undisciplined students, negligent parents and shrill right-wing social critics, who consider all teachers to be nothing but liberal socialist indoctrinators.

How then, shall we attract young people into teaching? Enter U.S. Sen. Zell Miller. Miller is introducing "Thank You Teachers Tax Cut" legislation that would involve a graduating scale of federal income tax incentives for teachers based upon their length of service. Teachers with less than five years of experience would get a tax cut equal to a third of their federal income taxes; those with five to 10 years of experience would receive a cut equal to two-thirds; and those with more than 10 would pay no federal income tax at all.

It's one hell of an incentive to teach — though I'd prefer that Miller's plan specify that only public school teachers would receive the tax incentives, because teachers in lily-white private schools that cater to the rich don't suffer the same indignities to which public school teachers are subjected. But that's nitpicking. America needs dedicated career teachers, and Miller's proposal is the best idea in years to attract them.

Miller is certain to get some static from his newfound political pals for daring to suggest that teachers deserve even a modicum of respect. The Republican base — particularly the extremist evangelicals — has made of crusade of vilifying teachers as part of a vast liberal conspiracy to transform children into promiscuous homosexual-tolerating condom users. Miller will undoubtedly lose a few points with these folks.

Other critics argue that the government shouldn't be granting preferential tax breaks to individuals in certain professions. And it is fair to consider the notion that if we're going to give teachers a tax break, we should consider income tax relief for police and firefighters, too.

But these concerns provide no solution to the problem of teacher recruitment and retention. Our children will suffer if the teacher dilemma isn't addressed.

At least Zell Miller seems concerned.

Jeff Berry has been a Zell Miller fan since the age of 9.??





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