The West Las Vegas School district’s trip to “the other” Las Vegas is a good example of a bad decision being made on how to spend education dollars.
First, some background. Every school district in the state, including West, is having to reign in spending in light of funding shortfalls. But not all of a district’s money comes from the same source, or goes into the same “general fund,” which explains why West’s Head Start program gets $21,680 annually in federal money for training and technical assistance.
Then along comes a big deal of a conference for the Head Start program and, since all that money is just sitting there, West decides to send 10 people, including four school board members, to Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on the infamous Vegas strip.
Superintendent Ruben Cordova (who didn’t attend, by the way) called it a prudent use of taxpayers’ money, since the district is fiscally responsible for the Head Start program here in Las Vegas. And local Head Start Director Joseph T. Griego (who did go) said he wanted to make sure the district’s finance officials understand the legalities and deadlines related to the program’s finances — since that got the program in trouble a few years earlier, before Griego’s time.
OK, so it was an important conference. But did West really need to send 10 people? Did four of the district’s five school board members really need to be there?
And while we’re raising questions, how about this one: Did those four school board members ever get together at the conference and talk about district business? If so, they may have violated the New Mexico open meetings law.
Our questions don’t stop there, for there are many good reasons to wonder about the prudence of spending more than $17,000 of a $21,680 “training” fund for a West Las Vegas crowd to attend a plush conference in a popular resort city. We’re told the district didn’t pay for the attendees’ family members who went along, nor did they pay for anyone’s booze, and that’s to the district’s credit, but seventeen grand for ten people to attend the conference? Is that how the board’s constituents want their education dollars spent? We seriously doubt it.
As for the contention that the money couldn’t go into classroom expenses, since it was exclusively intended for training and technical assistance, we must ask, could it have been used to help those Head Start program teachers who are under pressure to earn bachelor’s degrees by September 2013? Could this money have been used to help them, instead of sending a small army of administrative officials to Las Vegas, Nevada? If the answer to that question is no, then it makes one wonder why the feds would allocate so much money to a single program’s training fund. And if the answer is yes ... well then, it would suggest a colossal misuse of education money.
The school board in particular needs to be looking for ways to save on administrative costs and channel those savings into the classrooms, including teachers’ training. This elaborate trip to Sin City makes them look as if that’s not really on the agenda.