Every year, Texas consumers are given one weekend to get stuff for their kids that prepares them for back-to-school and at the same times gives a break from local and state taxes. That means I can go out and buy the following items for my children:
Binders, blackboard chalk, book bags, calculators, cellophane tape, compasses, composition books, crayons, erasers, glue, highlighters, index cards, index card boxes, legal pads, lunch boxes, markers, notebooks, paper, pencils, pencil boxes, pencil sharpeners, pens, protractors, rulers, scissors, writing tablets, clothes and shoes and not have to pay any taxes. It is the Texas Tax Free Weekend (TFW).
Those items will be totally exempt from local and state taxes for three days. Thank you for this Rick Perry, thank you Joe Straus.
Doesn’t that list seem kind of strange to you?
I was looking over this list, and save for one item, calculators, there are no items that might be considered, er, let’s say, cutting edge. As a matter of fact, for a state that thinks it needs to move into the future, it sure has a weird idea of what 21st century students need in the classroom. Blackboard chalk? Really? Do kids actually use blackboard chalk anymore? And those lucky high school students can use all the crayons that mommy can buy. Thank you Rick Perry and Joe Straus.
Save for calculators, it looks like anything that has to do with digital learning is pretty much left out of the list. Surely Rick Perry wants parents to buy computers and other digital devices for their school kids. I wonder why technology is lacking from the TFW? Surely the legislators in Austin must know by now that parents are buying technology for their children. They keep saying they want our kids to be 21st Century Learners. There even is a “Long Range Plan” for Texas Technology.
So that immediately begs the question: Why aren’t the following items included in the TFW: desktop, laptop, and netbook computers, digital cameras, camcorders, voice recorders, as well as student productivity software? Every single one of those items is mentioned in the Technology Application TEKS. The TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) are the guidelines that all districts in the state must adhere to when creating how children are taught. The TEKS tell educators what all children should know at each grade level and in each subject, including technology. So if the state expects kids to use these items, then it only seems logical that they would allow parents to purchase them on the TFW.
Which brings up the entire reason for the tax free weekend: House Bill 1801 identified school supplies priced less than $100 that will be exempt from state and local sales tax for the tax-free weekend. This is an improvement over the previous years where only clothes were exempt, but still… blackboard chalk? Really?
Texas of course, is not the only state to offer TFWs. These states also will have tax-free weekends this year:
Alabama allows computers under $750, Georgia allows computers to $1500, Missouri allows computers and software up to $3500, New Mexico allows computers under $1000 and computer equipment under $500, North Carolina allows computers under $3500 and equipment up to $250, South Carolina allows computers and equipment, Tennessee allows computers under $1500, Vermont allows any item costing less than $2000, and West Virginia allows any item costing under $5000.
So if 9 of the 18 states can allow computer purchases for their TFWs, why can’t Texas?
The purpose of theTFW, at least to my understanding, is to help parents prepare kids for the upcoming school year. So if that is the case, and we want Texas kids to be part of the 21st century, why don’t we send a big signal by allowing parents to get a break on purchases of computers and computer-related items for their kids? As it is written now, it looks like the Office Depot and Walmart lobby wrote this bill. Why not let the parent lobby write the bill next time?
Some think that this would allow for widespread abuse of the system, as adults would go out and get computers instead of kids. Okay, I suppose that there is some of that. But I also suppose that there are adults buying clothes as well.
Here is how I see it working, so as to cut down on abuse:
In order to purchase a computer or other digital tax-free device, parents would have to show a student’s valid school ID. Only one computer or tablet per child allowed at a time to prevent businesses and mass purchasing for purposes outside of school. One computer per family per store. That would spread the purchasing across businesses. Limit it to computers that students would actually use: no giant graphics workstations. Ipads. Imacs. No $4000 Macbook pros. You get the idea.
Seems simple enough. Someone want to step up to the plate here? Perhaps the El Paso legislation could come together and sponsor a bill in two years.
In the meantime I guess I will drive over to New Mexico and pick up my stepdaughter’s Macbook instead of getting it at the local Best Buy.
New Mexico’s gain, Texas’ loss.
Maybe in two years.