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12 S.C. school districts spend $87,000 on trip

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School districts across South Carolina spent more than $87,000 last April to send board members to a three-day conference in San Francisco.
Board members from at least 12 different districts used public money to attend the three-day long National School Boards Association (NSBA) Annual Conference in California.
Several brought spouses with them. Expenses included airline tickets, lodging, conference registration, meals, ground transportation and, in some cases, unitemized daily per-diem checks for the three-day event.
The figure comes from an 85-district Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) survey of public school spending on the trip. More than $15,000 was spent on airfare alone. Several board members stayed at four-star hotels while in San Francisco. The $87,000 bill represents the total salary of two full-time classroom teachers for an entire school year.
Among those districts using public money to pay for the trip were Allendale, Dorchester 4, Florence 3, Hampton 2, Laurens 55, Lexington-Richland 5, Orangeburg 5, Richland 1 and 2, Spartanburg 4 and 7, as well as Sumter 2 districts.
Seventeen districts did not respond to requests for documentation of spending related to the event. At least one board member had portions his trip paid for by the S.C. School Boards Association (SCSBA), which is itself funded by membership dues paid by the public schools, but claims not to be subject to FOIA requests.
The NSBA advertises its annual conference as a forum for sharing ideas among school leaders about best practices for saving money and raising achievement.
The posted schedule included sessions helping attendees “sharpen their skills” at lobbying state and federal lawmakers, as well as implementing controversial bisexual- and transgender-friendly gender identity and sexual orientation programs in their schools.
There were also workshops informing members about the most effective strategies for conducting and winning local bond referendums to finance building projects.
A report by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA) found that 333 public school teachers in South Carolina lost their jobs as the result of budget tightening and force reductions over the last two school years.
Still, absolute funding for K-12 education is actually rising. Data from the 2012 state budget indicate public schools in South Carolina will collect an average in $11,754 in local, state and federal funds per student next school year.

Column provided by South Carolinians for Responsible Government.