As I prepare to head off to Washington DC for a conference, I am a bit reluctant to comment on the MPS travel issue. Local blogger and teacher Jay Bullock points out that it's a small amount of MPS' budget so why worry? I agree that there are more troubling aspects of the district's budget (we might start with fringe benefits that come far too close to salary), but his reaction is instructive in a way that gets at what bothers folks about MPS in particular and government in general.
MPS claims to be short on revenue. I was part of the senior management team in a business that was short on revenue during the economic slowdown that began in 2000.
Managers turned the budget upside down to wring out cost. There were not categories that were "too small" to matter and travel was rigorously scrutinized. It is hard to do that. It requires doing things that you would prefer not to do. We were driven to it by the lack of an alternative. What could drive MPS to do the same thing other than public scrutiny?
I don't believe that MPS never needs to send people to meetings in faraway places, even attractive ones. What is galling is that a district that pleads poverty doesn't appear to have been very careful about when and where it was necessary to do so. This not only sends a bad message, but it suggests a comparable lack of care about other larger parts of the budget.
Jay is now upset that the District's new policy on travel, adopted in response to the news report, is too rigid and it might be. He thinks that TMJ's I-team ought to be ashamed of themselves for ... what? Reporting the truth? Maybe the real blame lies with an administration that now has to overreact to a report of their own sloppiness.