Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, aghast at the $1.2 million that was spent to send more than 600 Hawaiian educators to the Model Schools Conference in Florida, is cracking down on what she considers excessive spending in the state Department of Education.
The four-day conference earlier this summer at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando proved particularly touchy because it coincided with a June 24 letter to the department of education from Gov. Lingle outlining a 4 percent, department-wide cutback on discretionary spending.
In a firmly written letter dated Aug. 4, the Republican governor asked that the Hawaii Board of Education account for the nearly $2,000 spent per educator on the Orlando education reform conference.
As of last week, the department had not submitted the requested budget information, according to Russell Pang, the governor’s chief spokesman.
Ray McNulty, a senior vice president at the International Center for Leadership in Education who assisted in coordinating the Model Schools Conference for the Hawaiian educators who attended, sees the uproar as unfair.
“When Hawaii holds an in-state conference, not many people come, and [Hawaiian educators] don’t get a chance to network with many other educators,” Mr. McNulty said.
He added that, as a result of their attending conferences less frequently, teachers in Hawaii’s statewide school district “become very focused in their work, rather than going to conferences all over the place.”
Daniel Hamada, the assistant superintendent of the state department of education’s office of curriculum, instruction, and student support in Honolulu, also defends the department’s decision to commit so much of the state’s education budget for this conference.
“This conference showcases the best practices in the nation,” he said.
As far as future travel, however, “principals are taking a hard look at the travel costs of professional development,” Mr. Hamada said. “We have to consider what will be cut back with the least amount of impact for our students.”
A version of this article appeared in the August 27, 2008 edition of Education Week