Actress Jenna Fischer, playing secretary-turned-paper salesman Pam Beesly in the hit television series The Office, became beloved for suffering under a boss who despite good intentions constantly said really ignorant things. It seems she learned well from Steve Carell’s Michael Scott as she recently joined the pantheon of blue-checkmark Twitter titans quick to send out emotional rants with little regard for accuracy.
“I can’t stop thinking about how school teachers can no longer deduct the cost of their classroom supplies on their taxes…something they shouldn’t have to pay for with their own money in the first place. I mean, imagine if nurses had to go buy their own syringes. #ugh"
Okay, look, I’m a teacher. I appreciate Fischer attempting to speak out on our behalf, though I have a strong suspicion her concern is born more from her ideological distaste for people keeping more of their own money than some altruistic devotion to those of us who work in schools.
But there are a couple problems with Fischer’s comment. First, a number of parents are probably scratching their heads as they put her tweet talking about teachers buying their own classroom supplies next to the list of supplies the school instructs parents to purchase either individually or in the form of book/material fees. While it’s true that many of us teachers purchase items throughout the year to help facilitate what we’re doing in the classroom, it is disingenuous to pretend that parents don’t shoulder a significant burden for school supplies as well.
The second problem with Fischer’s tweet is that it is a lie. A big, fat lie. In the Senate version of the tax cuts, the teacher deduction had been doubled from $250 – where it has been for years – to $500. In the final bill, Congress decided to leave the deduction at $250. There should have been no confusion for anyone who spent more than 10 seconds researching this issue, meaning Jenna’s tweet was beyond irresponsible. With her substantial following, the lie she promoted was retweeted nearly 65,000 times (at least count) and had been “liked” over 218,000 times.
Who knew that Pam Beesly would be the textbook embodiment of fake news?
“Thanks for your tweets! I had some facts wrong. Teachers surveyed by Scholastic in 2016 personally spent an average of $530 on school supplies for students. Teachers who worked at high-poverty schools spent an average of $672. The tax deduction was capped at $250.”
Of course, to date this “correction” hasn’t even gotten 500 retweets. And even if it does, Fischer still is dishonest. The tax deduction was left precisely where it has been for years – including all the years of the Obama administration when teachers were spending every bit as much as they are now and Fischer was silent on this apparent outrage.
It’s politics; I get it. But assuming that Jenna Fischer does have the best interest of us teachers in mind, might I make a humble request? Please Beesly, don’t oppose tax cuts that are going to put a couple thousand extra dollars in each of our pockets every year, okay?
After all, if we’re going to have to buy our own supplies, that’ll go a long way to helping.