Here is some fresh insanity to cap off the school year for you. The Waco Independent School District is set to spend $84,000 to send staff members to a seminar. In Las Vegas. Texas Budget Source‘s Sara Talbert has a full write-up here. (If you are not reading Texas Budget Source daily, you are missing out on one of the best resources in the state of Texas)
I’m sure the Vegas part has you scratching your head, but the dollar amount is what should make you flat-out irate. Especially when you learn that Waco ISD is facing a $200,000 budget shortfall, and has outstanding bond debt totaling $399,588,428 (that’s principal and interest as of 8/31/09, according to the Texas Bond Review Board).
From Talbert’s story, emphasis mine: “Through an open records request, Texas Budget Source obtained documents outlining the cost, totaling $84,550.40. The invoices include $39,372.00 in registration fees; $28,950.00 for 67 airplane tickets on Southwest Airlines; and $12,818.40 for guest rooms at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. One district employee is flying separately at her own expense.”
Good gracious. I need a breather after reading that, I don’t know about you.
Apparently, the money for this is all federal money, which shouldn’t make Waco taxpayers feel better about it if you ask me. It’s federal stimulus funds, after all, meaning it was never part of their original budgeting scheme, and the money won’t always be there for future training trips of this nature. Waco ISD officials seem to think this is a great opportunity for their teachers and administrators, and seem to think it wasn’t worth sending their staff to any such opportunities in Texas. Who is to say they won’t try to justify such expenditures in the future, with Waco ISD property-taxpayer dollars instead of federal stimulus funds?
Honestly, if you have to ask what’s wrong with all of this, you’re clearly reading the wrong blog and I suggest you cozy up to the leftists in the blogosphere. It is outrageous that a school district would choose to spend this kind of money – no matter if there is or is not a budget shortfall, and no matter whether there is outstanding debt. It is flatly unconscionable to do this sort of thing in any economy. It is irresponsible and it is extravagant. Waco ISD’s superintendent, Dr. Roland Hernandez, makes the excuse that “the district chose to attend the Las Vegas institute was because the district did not want to pull teachers out of classrooms for training in the fall.” That’s amazing to me – it’s really less expensive to do it now, rather than stay closer to home and get substitutes?
Major kudos to Waco Tea Party President Toby Marie Walker for speaking out on this issue. We need more people like her, in all our school districts, calling out the officials who decide they can do whatever they wish with our money.