Teachers, congressional candidate Tom Niermann gather outside Yoder’s OP office to protest GOP tax plan

Jay Senter - November 16, 2017 8:46 am
Members of the American Federation of Teachers - Kansas rallied and collected school supplies outside Rep. Kevin Yoder's office Wendesday in a show of opposition to the GOP tax plan.
Members of the American Federation of Teachers – Kansas rallied and collected school supplies outside Rep. Kevin Yoder’s office Wendesday in a show of opposition to the GOP tax plan.

Representatives of the largest public employee union in the state of Kansas and a Democratic candidate hoping to unseat the four-term incumbent gathered outside Rep. Kevin Yoder’s downtown Overland Park office Wednesday to voice disapproval of the GOP tax plan supported by the Republican congressman.

American Federation of Teachers-Kansas President Lisa Ochs said the group was strongly opposed to a provision of the Republican tax bill that would eliminate a $250 deduction available to teachers who spend their own money on school supplies.

“The tax bill does a lot of damage to a lot of working class people, not the least of which are teachers, who if this actually come to fruition would lose that $250 deduction,” Ochs said. She said the removal of the deduction was particularly offensive to Yoder’s teacher constituents here in Kansas, where the K-12 system has been underfunded for years.

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“Ideally, if schools were adequately funded, then teachers wouldn’t have to be paying out of pocket to begin with in order to make sure they have enough supplies for their classrooms,” she said. “But to take that deduction away we think is really unconscionable.”

As part of the protest, AFT-Kansas set up a table to collect school supplies for teachers.

Yoder’s office responded to the AFT-Kansas rally by saying the the congressman “has the utmost respect and admiration for teachers and their hard work and dedication to our children and community,” and that he actually supports a provision in the Senate version of the bill that would increase the school supply deduction to $500. The current $250 deduction translates to only $62.50 per year in actual tax reductions, said CJ Grover, Yoder’s communication’s director.

“[It’s] important to not lose track of the big picture,” said Grover. “An Overland Park teacher making the median salary of $54,000 stands to see more than $1,800 in tax relief under the House tax plan. What teacher wouldn’t trade a $62.50 deduction for $1,800 in tax relief?”

That echoes the line Yoder delivered in a video posted on social media last week, in which he couched the GOP tax plan as streamlining a complicated system.

But that framing struck many of the protestors outside Yoder’s office as less than forthright. Non-partisan analyses of the GOP’s tax proposals suggest that while some middle class families would see tax cuts, the bulk of the benefit of the bill would go to the highest-income Americans.

Tom Niermann, a Prairie Village resident and Pembroke Hill teacher running for the Democratic nomination for Yoder’s seat, attended the rally Wednesday and said he was uncomfortable with Yoder’s “misleading” claims that the bill would be a boon to the middle class:

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