Teachers Calling on Legislators to Roll Back the Teacher Tax

Connecticut Education Association Statement

March 16, 2018

Teachers Calling on Legislators to Roll Back the Teacher Tax

Describe financial hardships, struggles caused by unfair payroll tax

The decision to increase the teacher payroll tax is causing additional financial hardships for Connecticut's professional educators. The payroll tax increase, combined with increases in healthcare costs, furlough days, and little or no wage increases have led to many Connecticut teachers taking home less pay this year than they did last year.

"Legislators passed a law that is clearly harming teachers across the state," said CEA President Sheila Cohen. "Teachers earn less than other professionals who have the same or less education working in different fields, yet dedicated educators are the ones lawmakers chose to target with a detrimental tax increase, placing yet another burden on them."

Teachers are speaking out at the Finance Committee's Public Hearing today, calling on legislators to pass House Bill 5430 An Act Concerning Teachers' Retirement System Contributions and roll back the unfair increase in the teacher payroll tax.

The payroll tax increase from 6 percent to 7 percent is not a 1-percent increase but a 16.6-percent increase in what teachers are required to pay. No other group of Connecticut citizens saw a higher per capita tax increase in the budget last year—approximately $700 per teacher.

Teachers do not receive Social Security and are dependent on their retirement fund. Over the years, teachers have always paid their fair share into the teacher retirement plan, but the state has not fully funded or paid its share—creating an unfunded liability that jeopardizes the solvency of the fund.

"It is unfair to punish teachers with an increase in the payroll tax to pay a portion of the state's share," said Cohen. "Legislators must keep their promise to teachers, who have fully funded their fair share of teacher retirement for decades. We are asking them to repeal the increase to the teacher payroll tax."

In written testimony submitted to legislators today, teachers shared their personal stories and hardships caused by the increased tax on educators. Here are some of their comments:

  • My pay was reduced when the state cut funding to my districts and then teachers were hit with a tax hike that further decreases my take-home pay substantially.
  • You have literally removed $1,800 from my yearly household operating budget (we are a two- teacher family). With rising costs for all things, and especially high deductible health care costs, this constitutes a big hit.
  • My paycheck leaves no extra for my children's college savings.
  • When districts cannot afford classroom books, teachers buy them. When district budgets cannot cover the cost of art supplies, teachers buy them. When kids come to school hungry, teachers provide snacks and food. When kids come to school without coats, teachers buy them. We support kids because we care. It would be wonderful if our state appreciated all that we do and supported us the same way.
  • Due to budget cuts, my district asked for two furlough days to help close an immediate gap in the budget. The loss of two days' pay impacts my family's tight budget.
  • I have already suffered through years of increased insurance costs and 0% to 1% raises. I have been treading water for years, financially; this unfair tax should be repealed.
  • This additional tax is an insult to people like me who have dedicated their lives to children and who have accepted that we make a salary that is far below other professionals with the same amount of education.
  • I still don't have enough money to properly rent or own a place of my own, while maintaining loan payments, paying bills, and buying food to eat. I buy notebooks and pencils for my class out of my own pocket. I buy books for my students to promote literacy—books on their level that will also spark their interest—again, out of my own pocket.
  • I cannot fund my classroom and live on my own with less money than before.
  • I have given back two days in pay this year. I have had many years where I took a zero percent increase to my pay, and I spend thousands of my own money each year in my classroom to make sure my students have everything they need to learn.
  • I work two part-time jobs to help cover costs that are are the rise.
  • More than a decade into my teaching career in Stamford, with a salary that is higher than many other Connecticut districts, I still cannot afford a home in Stamford or anywhere near it. The teacher payroll tax might not be the one thing standing between me and home ownership, but it certainly doesn't help.
  • In light of this tax increase, as well as increased health care costs, I am earning less than last year.
  • I love what I do, and I love teaching children, but ultimately I must do what is best for me and my family. I worked incredibly hard and spent a considerable amount of money to earn degrees and state certifications. At some point the benefits I get from teaching will not be worth the rising costs I must pay to my own family's well-being.
  • I currently work two additional part-time jobs, and my husband works a full- and a part-time job, just to make ends meet, and we do not spend beyond our means or go on elaborate (or any) vacations.
  • The increased payroll tax on teachers is incredibly unfair and takes away from the hundreds of dollars of our personal money that we spend on classroom materials and supplies due to stretched budgets and our desire to provide our students with the best education and experiences as possible.
  • I paid to gain certifications to teach college-level classes so that my high school students could get a guaranteed college credit. I got no reimbursement for the $4,500 expense. I knew what I needed to do for my students, and my family sacrificed our summer vacation.
  • I have been teaching for 19 years and was quite upset by the roughly 17 percent increase that teachers have to pay into the pension system. I will now be making less money because of this and an increase in our healthcare contributions.
  • I make far less money than my 26-year-old daughter who entered the workforce two years ago as an engineer with only a bachelor's degree.
  • The increase in the teacher payroll tax more than offsets any raise we get, and coupled with our increasing share of health insurance, we are going backwards.
  • My take-home pay at the start of 2018 decreased significantly due to the tax on teachers, and my life has become that much harder and more stressful for me.
  • My husband and I are both teachers. This tax increase is a hardship on our family as we now have $300 less a month to pay for the needs of our family in an already expensive state.
  • As a single mom, I can say you are directly making it more difficult for me to financially provide for my son.
  • I have purchased school supplies for over the last 12 years. Additionally, I purchase school supplies for 22 students every year for the last 23 years. I spend over or close to a thousand dollars every year on various supplies needed in my classroom, from glue sticks to the huge expense of necessary books! Why is my profession being taxed unfairly when my profession comes with the need of using out-of-pocket spending? I fund my room and make sure my students' needs are met while also trying to raise my own two children.

"The state's budget woes should not fall squarely on the backs of public school educators, nor should teachers be penalized for the state's mistakes," said CEA Executive Director Donald Williams. "There is a better, fairer way to address the state's unfunded liability for Teacher Retirement. It is not to unfairly tax teachers more, but rather to meet the state's obligation in a way discussed by the Teacher Pension Viability Commission—placing the State Lottery into the retirement fund, or finding other sustainable revenue streams to ensure the fund is solvent for decades to come."

"Repealing the teacher payroll tax would send a message that the state values and supports our teachers who go above and beyond every single day to help children—our state's future leaders—succeed and achieve their dreams," concluded Cohen.

The Connecticut Education Association is Connecticut's largest teachers' union, representing active and retired educators across the state.

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