Top Teachers Union Takes On Corporate Tax Loopholes To Fund Education

The National Education Association is ramping up a public information campaign to build support for closing big corporate tax loopholes and directing the revenue toward key education initiatives. The push comes weeks after the Obama administration released a framework for corporate tax reforms that would be revenue neutral, suggesting a schism between the powerful union and the White House. But in a Monday interview, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel applauded Obama’s record on education and said his group’s push is meant to raise awareness of one of many ways to finance more federal investment in education.

“One reason to look at corporate taxes is because it is so huge,” Van Roekel said, citing the Center for Tax Justice, which concludes (PDF) that closing seven specific corporate tax loopholes could raise nearly $1.5 trillion over 10 years. NEA proposes using the money to raise the maximum Pell grant award to cover half the average cost of public higher education, fund Title I spending on students from low-income families and other initiatives.As part of its drive, NEA is enlisting supporters to petition legislators at both the federal and state levels to close corporate tax loopholes in order to better finance education programs. And by specifically targeting loopholes that allow corporations to defer U.S. taxes and take deductions on aging equipment, they’re pitting themselves against some of the most powerful interests in Washington.

That may explain why Obama has a broadly different view of where funding for federal programs should come from. But that doesn’t trouble doesn’t trouble Van Roekel.

“President Obama from the first day he started campaigning, he’s been a champion for education,” he said. “I know he will put education at the forefront, and if there’s another place in the budget to find money for education — my job is to educate the public about corporate loopholes.”