Teacher's petition for tax credit on out of pocket expenses

Published: Oct. 25, 2011 at 9:47 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 25, 2011 at 10:51 PM HST
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Jennifer Mizumura, Prince Jonah Kuhio Elementary School Kindergarten Teacher
Jennifer Mizumura, Prince Jonah Kuhio Elementary School Kindergarten Teacher
Nalani Koch
Nalani Koch

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii teachers union is circulating a petition asking for an extra tax break on all those school supplies they buy with their own money.  The Hawaii State Teachers Association wants to collect 50,000 signatures to take to lawmakers and the governor to help persuade them to adopt a tax credit.

Walk around a classroom and it's easy to find items the teacher bought.

"This chart I bought, all the magnets with my own money," said Jennifer Mizumura, Prince Jonah Kuhio Elementary School Kindergarten Teacher, from inside her classroom. "I actually bought all the white boards for the kids to use."

While it helps education it hurts their bottom line.

"With the teacher pay cut and everything it's just getting harder," said Mizumura.

Once upon a time teachers had bigger budgets but now that money has disappeared and so would the supplies if they didn't use their own money.

Nalani Koch has been teaching 17 years and is scared to do the math on how much she's spent on classroom supplies.

"Actually it's funny that you are asking me this because I just got back from the mainland during our break and they have this store called the Dollar Tree. I bought tons of stuff my whole suitcase was filled with things for my class," said Koch, Prince Jonah Kuhio Elementary School Kindergarten Teacher.  "I look at it as I'm giving back to the community and society."

At times her students get things before her own kids, like this pumpkin.

"She was like how come they have a pumpkin and we don't yet?" laughed Koch, who explained she would take it home after the class was finished with it.

The teachers union hopes get the 50,000 signatures from people who think teachers should get a state tax credit for out of pocket expenses.  It would go along with the $250 deduction they already get on federal taxes.

"It would help. It would definitely help," said Debbie Miyaki, Prince Jonah Kuhio Elementary School Kindergarten Teacher.  "Our kids need the supplies so we have to get it."

"It would be beneficial. My fiancé is an electrician and he gets to write off a lot of things that he gets to buy, his tools, and everything," said Mizumura.

"I think it would be nice to have the tax deduction however I have mixed feelings about that.  I feel if we have that it becomes the responsibility of the teacher to use our own money to buy supplies which really we shouldn't," said Koch.  "It's a good thing and I can see what the union is trying to get for us.  On the other hand will it back fire?"

She worries if they get a tax credit budgets will never be raised again and they'll always be expected to use their own money.

The HSTA has not contacted the Department of Taxation and at this point there is no estimate for how much it would cost the state.

To sign the petition click here. You will need a valid email address to be counted.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.