The Public School System defended the nearly half-a-million dollars it spent on travel last year, saying it was sharply lower than in previous years.
In 1995, PSS spent more than $1 million in federally funded trips alone. Last year’s travel spending was at least 15 percent lesser than in 1997, according to acting Fiscal and Budget Officer William Matson.
“We’ve been frugal in our travels and very responsible. Ever since I became chairman, I was very strict with travels,” said Board of Education Chairman Marja Lee Taitano.
She said off-island trips are important: they bring teachers to the CNMI, send managers and principals to training and connect the islands to the outside world.
“Sure you can do a lot with computers, but that’s virtual reality,” Taitano said.
Besides, she said, PSS stands to lose federal travel funds if they were left unspent.
Taitano made the comment after Rep. Heinz S. Hofschneider, chairman of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare, was reported as being disappointed at PSS over the travel expenses.
Matson said PSS had received a grant that was to be used solely for travel and another for attending meetings and seminars. The grants were worth more than $50,000.
Private schools had benefited from the grants too.
Taitano said, “We sent children for sports, for drug-free conferences and for the national academic-challenge bowl.” Students from private schools usually qualified in these travels.
The recipient of the Teacher of the Year Award also represents the CNMI annually to a national meeting in Washington D.C., she added.
Taitano said Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio approved of “essential travels” in their meeting last week.
Nevertheless, she said, a proposal has been put forth, asking those who would get to travel to pick up at least one-fourth of the expenses.