$1.5M Florida trip explained by BOE
The state Board of Education is defending more than $1.5 million spent by 175 schools to participate in a summer conference in Florida after Gov. Linda Lingle raised concerns about the tab.
Click here to read the school board's letter to Gov. Linda Lingle.
In a one-page letter to Lingle, school board Chairwoman Donna Ikeda said the board "fully supports professional development and training" of educators, calling it a "vital investment" toward student achievement.
The letter, dated Thursday, came with five additional pages compiled by the Department of Education listing each school's cost to join the Model Schools Conference held June 22-25 at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando. It shows that schools sent between one and 27 staffers - for a total of 644 people - to the gathering at a combined price of $1,573,852.23, about a quarter of it in federal funds.
Last month, Lingle, citing the state's weakening economy, demanded a full accounting of the trip. She also asked for the school board's position on the travel and its policy on future conferences "that might involve significant commitments of DOE (Department of Education) resources."
She noted the Florida conference happened as the school board had been deliberating how to cut some $9.2 million from its budget to comply with a 4 percent spending restriction issued to all state departments on June 23.
Ikeda responded most Hawaii participants registered for the conference by March 31, and 91 percent of all who attended had signed up by April, before budget cuts were announced.
Lingle's senior policy adviser, Linda Smith, praised the Education Department for releasing the school-by-school breakdown of conference attendees, but said the administration remains troubled about the number of people who went on the trip. Smith said it would have been cheaper to fly conference presenters to Hawaii, or send fewer people who could spread the information with teachers once they returned.