Earlier this week, it was reported that top-level staffers with the Department of Education spent about $11,000 more on travel-related expenses in fiscal year 2010 than in the previous fiscal year. The man running on the Democratic side to be the head of that agency says that the travel expenses were for political purposes and not bettering education around the state.
Stan Olson, the former superintendent for the Boise School District, said the additional travel spending by the department has not produced much in the way of results for schools in Idaho. "I don't see what the travel has done for us," said Olson. "It really hasn't netted us much." Olson told IddahoReporter.com that the man who currently heads the agency, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, might be using taxpayer-funded travel to further his re-election prospects. "From what I hear, it's (travel by Luna) more of just showing up and shaking hands than working on the functions of Idaho's school," Olson said.
Luna, who is running on the Republican ticket this November, said in an earlier interview that he believes travel around the state makes him a better administrator. "It has value for the students and I know it has tremendous value for me. I can’t imagine being state superintendent and not spending time in the classrooms and in the schools across the state. You can’t just sit in an office in downtown Boise and assume that the decisions that you’re making, the policies that you’re contemplating … you can’t assume that you make wise decisions if you never get out of your office,” Luna said.
Olson isn't totally closed off to using taxpayer dollars to travel around the state, but he wants to see education gains come from the money. "We need an education leader in this state," Olson said. "Tom has become a pretty good politician." Olson also said that travel to and from Washington, D.C., might be able to be cut back and that officials from that area might be able to come to Idaho to do their work.
Olson and Luna square off at the polls in November.
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