With education funds from the state and federal governments dwindling, it’s more apparent than ever that our local officials must exercise caution when spending the Liberty County School System’s money. Schools are making do with older books and fewer supplies. In recent years, teachers have dealt with furlough days. The district has postponed necessary building repairs.
Money is tight, and it seems to be getting tighter all the time. That’s why the Liberty County Board of Education’s recent decision to increase its per diem travel days for members came as a surprise. Previously, each of the seven members had 10 per diem days, but earlier this month, the BoE voted 4-3 to eliminate the 10-day restriction, which, in theory, will allow officials more time at workshops and conferences.
Board members are reimbursed $128 per day in addition to reimbursable expenses when on an approved overnight trip more than 50 miles outside the county. The 70 days the board members previously had to work with totalled a budgeted amount of $8,960.
Before the measure passed by a slim margin, one board member suggested reallocating per diem days for individual board members. For example, if the board as a whole has 70 days to work with but one member only uses three of his or her 10 days, that member’s remaining seven days could go to another BoE member who needs to travel more than 10 days.
That’s a reasonable and intelligent compromise. It’s too bad things didn’t work out that way.
The need for board members to educate themselves by attending conferences and workshops is understandable. Our students — and the entire district — benefit from a board that operates smoothly and efficiently. There’s no disputing the fact that our elected education officials hone their skills at such seminars and, often, they bring back valuable information and tactics to Liberty County. No one is asking the board of education members to cease all travel. But the option of reallocating the board’s 70 days would have been a nice happy medium.
BoE members do seem to understand the importance of using the school system’s funds wisely. At another meeting in March, the board unanimously approved a request to pay Advanced Placement testing fees for all students to take as many tests as they wish.
The investment of education funds in the continued and future success of our students is a wise move — a move for which we applaud the board. Here’s hoping our elected education officials make a few more decisions of this nature.