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Golden State Blues
California Democrats: Teachers Shouldn’t Pay Taxes

The latest bad idea produced by California’s Democratic legislators: Waive income taxes for the state’s senior teachers. Fox reports:

Legislators in California recently introduced a bill that would offer educators major tax breaks in an effort to keep them in the classroom and combat the state’s growing teacher shortage.

The measure quickly drew fire from taxpayer advocates who criticized it as politically inspired favoritism.

Democratic senators Henry Stern of Los Angeles and Cathleen Galgiani of Stockton earlier this month introduced Senate Bill 807, which would exempt teachers from paying the state income tax – which would be the equivalent of a 4 percent to 6 percent salary increase – after five years in the classroom.

Put aside the questions about fiscal prudence (this is a massive tax expenditure would need to be made up for elsewhere in the budget) and the questions about cronyism (California’s teachers union is perhaps the most powerful interest in Sacramento). The plan is fundamentally flawed because it represents an effort to double down on the rigid “blue model” of teacher hiring and promotion.

Schools should be able to aggressively replace underperforming teachers and keep new blood running through the system. But the promise of a big pay boost that sets in after five years will give teachers more of an incentive to stay on no matter what, and unions more of an incentive to lobby for even stronger protections against dismissal. (Defined-benefit pensions whose benefits don’t start accumulating for decades have the same effect).

If the legislature is going to give teachers a raise (which may or may not be necessary) it should aim the pay bump at young teachers—whose salary is already being consumed by pension benefits for retirees—so as to induce bright college graduates to give the profession a try. The promise of more pay five years in won’t attract young talent, and it probably won’t improve teacher quality. But it will exacerbate the sclerosis already plaguing the public education system.

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