My daughter started kindergarten this week. Far from the picture I’ve long had in my head of her being picked up at the end of my driveway by a big yellow school bus and carrying a much-too-big-for-her-body backpack, my princess is at least starting her elementary education in my home office – which has been carefully retrofitted into a Zoom classroom. Whether Eliana or any of her classmates will actually see the inside of a classroom this year remains to be seen, but what we do know is that the year(s) ahead are going to be a major adjustment for students, families and teachers alike.
I recently came across a Congressional letter that shocked me and made me start asking questions. It was written by Senator Thom Tillis from North Carolina and Congressman Dusty Johnson from South Dakota and addressed to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. In the letter, Sen. Tillis and Rep. Johnson ask for guidance to ensure that “PPE, sanitizer, plexiglass and other protective measures as recommended by the CDC as well as state and local officials are deductible classroom expenses under the IRS Educator Expense Deduction.” You can read the full letter here: https://bit.ly/2F7XfuE. While I’m sure many educators jumped for joy at the thought of a greater deduction, my gut reaction was: is this really the best our government can do? Why are teachers, public servants we entrust to educate future generations of Americans, having to come out of their own pockets at all to protect themselves and their students from COVID-19 exposure?
The concept of teachers covering classroom expenses is hardly novel. A study in 2019 by the Economic Policy Institute showed that public school educators in the United States spend an average of $459 of their own money annually on school supplies. This was the motivation for the “Liner Legal In the Classroom” program in 2018 where we reimbursed teachers throughout Ohio for art supplies used to create art projects in special needs classrooms. But teachers paying for sanitizer and plexiglass? C’mon now!
So, it is time for Liner Legal to get busy again. It is clear to me that no teacher should have to spend their own money to keep their classroom safe for themselves and their students. Over the next several months, beginning with the six communities in which we have offices – Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Youngstown, Columbus and Sandusky – we are going to begin working on a new community project called Clean Classroom to lead the charge among local businesses with the goal being to do everything we can to make sure no teacher has to use their own money to provide a clean and safe learning environment for their students. Our goal is ambitious, but together we can.
We all have an Eliana to protect.