Utah lawmakers propose $1,000 bonus for teachers, tax credits for classroom supplies

Utah lawmakers propose $1,000 bonus for teachers, tax credits for classroom supplies

(Scott G Winterton, KSL File)



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SALT LAKE CITY — A state lawmaker has proposed that the Utah Legislature give every licensed schoolteacher in the state a $1,000 bonus.

Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, pitched the idea to the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee Thursday.

When Hall’s constituents talk to him about “this excess in the Education Fund, always the response is, ‘OK, why don’t we give that back to the teachers?’”

To do so would cost nearly $33.3 million.

“It’s crazy that in order to give a $1,000 bonus, it costs $33 million,” Hall said.

Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews said at the start of the legislative session that leaders of the appropriations subcommittee challenged educators and others to come up with requests for one-time allocations that would make a meaningful difference in public education.

Hall’s take on that was a $1,000 bonus for teachers, she said.

A bonus alone will not address Utah’s acute teacher shortage or so-called teacher exodus, Matthews said.

“But it will go a long way to send a message that the Legislature cares, that you understand the increasing demands in our classrooms and the many roles that teachers must fill from nurse to counselor to nutritionist to referee to advocate and, oh yeah, teaching children to learn and thrive.”

Utah’s challenges with attracting and retaining teachers require long-term solutions, she said.

While a one-time bonus doesn’t fix those issue, it sends “a strong and immediate message of gratitude from this Legislature of, ‘Thank you for what you do to inspire our children. Thank you for hanging in there and holding this system together, you make a difference. You are valued.’”

Meanwhile, Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, wants to assist teachers by creating a refundable individual income tax credit for certain out-of-pocket classroom expenses.

Anderegg, sponsor of SB69, said the refundable income tax credit would extend to teachers and counselors because each spend significant amounts of their personal income to purchase supplies used in instruction and counseling.

This past summer, Anderegg said the issue of teacher supply money came up at his son’s baseball game. Six of the other parents attending were educators.

“They were all chatting and talking about how crappy it is that most of them are out of pocket anywhere from $300, $500, $600 a year for in-school educating, in-class educating. These are the supplies. ... So I was sitting there listening to them and I thought, ‘Well, I can do something about this,’” Anderegg said.

The tax credit would require about $32 million in ongoing funds, supposing $500 for 64,000 public school teachers and counselors, according to an estimate Anderegg said he received from the Utah Tax Commission.

According to the Utah State Board of Education, there are 29,618 classroom teachers, 4,936 educator specialists and 2,033 administrators in the state, for a total of 36,587 licensed educators. There are also 1,315 licensed counselors, according to state licensure data.

The Legislature already appropriates some classroom supply funds, which was about $5.5 million in the previous legislative session. Distribution of the funds is a local decision.

“Most of those teachers say they only see about $100 to $150 of that,” Anderegg said of teachers in his legislative district.

Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Syracuse, said she is concerned that the state funding appropriated by the Legislature for instructional supplies “is not getting to the end of the row.”

“I have serious concerns about that and some questions I would like answered,” Lisonbee said.

The subcommittee took no action but will is expected to vote to prioritize public education budget recommendations next week.

Marjorie Cortez

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