State Senator Patricia Jones is proposing eliminating the state’s personal tax exemption. Sen. Jones says her plan would not raise the income tax rate. It would remain at five percent, which she says few pay anyway due to a number of other tax write-offs like those for mortgages, church and other charitable gifts. She says instead that money, an estimated $400 million, would be invested into the education system.
"It's investing in our kids at the most local level,” explained Sen. Jones. “Instead of going through the state office or the school boards and so forth it's going to the school, the neighborhood school."
The funding would go directly to the school and the community council would decide how it should be spent. Jones estimates it would be an average of $1 million per high school, $700,000 per middle school and $400,000 per elementary school.
"That would be fantastic,” said one elementary teacher from the Davis School District. “I can't even imagine what we could do with that kind of money."
Our cameras caught up with the teacher outside the Clark Planetarium while her class was on a field trip. She told ABC 4 Utah, "They've been cutting so many important programs like the arts and field trips because we don't have the money for it."
It’s not just field trips they do without these days, but the basics like pencils, paper and textbooks.
"We don't have a real textbook for math we have one written by the district."
It’s not uncommon; classrooms across the state are doing what they can with what they have and most are packed with students.
The field trip school bus driver Garry Bringhurst told ABC 4 Utah, "I think they're over crowded, heavily overcrowded. I think if a teacher has more than 20 students they're overworked."
Utah's Taxpayers Association is calling Jones' plan a $400 million dollar tax hike. Chase Everton explained, “We think she’s exactly right. The income tax is structured so that the more kids you send to public school the less you pay for education. It’s a fair discussion to have but the concern we have it’s a $400 million dollar tax hike and I don’t think our economy can handle a $400 million dollar tax hike.”
It’s a concern that even the struggling teachers understand.
"I'm not sure people would want all of that donation to a school, because the income for families they kind of need that.”