Lawmakers want tax credit for teachers at low-performing schools

    Rep. Dave Belton, a Buckhead Republican, pitches his plan to the House Higher Ed Committee to give teachers tax credits to work in low-performing schools. Belton said similar programs are in place in 46 states. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

    Georgia teachers at low-performing schools could get a total of $15,000 in tax credits over five years if a proposed law is approved.

    The author, Buckhead Republican Rep. Dave Belton, said the legislation will help fill a teacher shortage.

    “Last year, there were 3,112 teacher vacancies, places we could not fill, so that’s 90,000 kids that are being underserved, and it especially affects minority kids,” Belton said.

    The bill unanimously passed the House Higher Education Committee Thursday.

    To be eligible, teachers would need to teach subjects including math, science and special education for five years in a designated turnaround school – schools in the bottom five percent in the state – or at one of the state’s most remote rural schools.

    Belton said up to 1,000 teachers on a first-come, first-served basis could receive a $3,000 tax credit each year for five years. The credit would be refundable so educators with tax burdens of less than $3,000 could still benefit.

    Belton’s original bill focused on forgiving teacher loans rather than reducing tax obligations.

    Higher Education Committee Chair Rep. Chuck Martin, who also serves on House Ways and Means Committee, suggested making the switch at an earlier Higher Education meeting.

    “If one gives a tax credit, that is the same as spending money,” the Alpharetta Republican said. “But … I would be willing to, on behalf of members of this committee, to … speak to the Appropriations chair, speak to the Ways and Means chair, speak to leadership on both sides of the aisle and see if we believe this policy enough to fund it through a tax credit payable to the teacher.”

    Belton said paying $3,000 per year to 1,000 teachers means the total price would not exceed $3 million, but he hopes the program will prove popular and add more participants in the future.

    Ross Williams
    Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal.Williams' reporting took him from City Hall to homeless camps, from the offices of business executives to the living rooms of grieving parents. His work earned recognition from the Georgia Associated Press Media Editors and the Georgia Press Association, including beat reporting, business writing and non-deadline reporting. A native of Cobb County, Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Atlanta's Oglethorpe University and a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University.