ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Wallethub.com, a financial website, recently ranked 90 of the most populated school districts in cities across the U.S., based on how effectively they spend tax dollars.
“At the bottom of the list is Rochester, New York, a city that is No. 2 for K-12 spending but has the worst test scores,” The Atlantic reported.
That suggests that the Rochester district should probably peel apart its budget, item by item, to determine where money is wisely spent, and where it’s being wasted.
One area that could be inspected is school employee travel.
The Rochester district had at least 117 transactions with various hotels around the nation in the 2015-16 fiscal year, for a total of $54,482.30. It also had at least 78 transactions with various airlines, for a total of $33,717.45.
That adds up to $88,199.75.
That total may be a lot higher – we have no way of telling. The district provided a travel expense report for June and July 2015, and December 2015 through May 2016. There were no records provided for August, September, October or November 2015. We repeatedly asked the school district to provide the rest of the records, but received nothing.
Perhaps school employees didn’t travel at all those months.
School district travel expenses are typically related to professional development conventions, conferences and workshops in distant locations, and that appears to be the case in Rochester.
Educators typically defend such travel, saying teachers and administrators acquire valuable knowledge and skills that benefit students.
But the Rochester district has been plagued for years by poor student test scores and perpetual financial problems. Considering that, has the annual travel investment been money well spent, or could it be used in a more impactful manner?
That’s up to the citizens of the school district and their elected officials to decide.
Here a just a few samples from the 2015-16 travel record provided by the Rochester school district:
Four transactions were made at the Hilton Houston Plaza between March 4-7, 2016, for a total of $5,674.50. Another $1,146.12 was spent on March 8 at the Embassy Suites in Houston.
There was a single transaction at the Westin Boston Waterfront for $1,507.31 on March 14, 2016.
There was one transaction for $1,812.51 at the Seaport Hotel in Boston on April 7, 2016.
There were five transactions at the Holiday Inn Express in Denver on April 14, 2016 for a total of $4,669.22.
There was a single transaction for $1,484 at the Renaissance Waterfront Hotel in Boston on April 13, 2016.
There were seven transactions at Sonesta Hotels in Baltimore on April 14, 2016 for a total of $3,214.98.
There were also hotel stays in New York City; Albany, N.Y.; New Orleans; Washington, D.C.; Knoxville, Tennessee; Oakland; Las Vegas; Arlington, Virginia; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Charlotte, North Carolina; Tampa; Orlando and Philadelphia.