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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 5, 2008

BOE defends teachers' trip to Florida

By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer

State Board of Education Chairwoman Donna Ikeda is defending the use of more than $1.5 million in state money to send 644 public school educators to a conference in Orlando, Fla.

In a letter sent Aug. 28, Ikeda responded to a request from Gov. Linda Lingle to account for sending principals, teachers and other educators from 175 schools to a Model Schools Conference at Walt Disney World's Swan and Dolphin Resort.

The conference was held from June 22-25.

"As you know, school-level decision-making is an integral part of reinventing education in our state," wrote Ikeda, referring to the Act 51 reform, which gave principals control over a substantial portion of their school's budget.

"The Hawai'i State Board of Education fully supports professional development and training of our school educators, which is a vital investment in public education and student achievement."

Lingle initially criticized the expenditure in an Aug. 4 letter to Ikeda. It was prompted, in part, by a plan by the state Department of Education to cut $1 million from its athletics budget.

The DOE had proposed the cut in order to meet budget restrictions imposed by Lingle.

"Given the serious fiscal limits the state is facing, the board's pending deliberations to cut basic programs such as junior varsity sports, I would appreciate knowing how much the Department of Education expended in total for all participants to this conference," Lingle wrote in the Aug. 4 letter.

In her response, Ikeda said the decisions by schools to send their principals or teachers to the conference were made before the governor imposed budget cuts.

Ikeda said 72 percent of the participants had registered for the event by March 31 and another 125 registered in April. The governor notified state departments of the budget restrictions on June 23.

Reach Loren Moreno at lmoreno@honoluluadvertiser.com.