Top-level education staffers in the state, including Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, traveled more in fiscal year 2010 than in fiscal year 2009, according to records obtained by IdahoReporter.com. Luna, in an interview earlier this year, said that traveling among schools in Idaho and meeting students makes him a better public official.
According to the records released by the Idaho Department of Education through a public records request, Luna and other top-level staffers incurred about $29,000 in travel-related costs in fiscal year 2009, which ran from July 1, 2008, until June 30, 2009. In fiscal year 2010, travel costs increased by about $11,000. Between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010, travel expenses totaled $40,297.55. Much of the amount in 2010 went to fund trips for Luna to meet with students across the state, as well as to attend state education board meetings and several out-of-state education-related conferences. Records show a wide range of expenses, including flights, rental cars, gas charges, and food receipts. The total amount represents a fraction of the total budget for the department, however. In 2010, the department was allotted about $3.8 million by the Idaho Legislature, down by about $200,000 from fiscal year 2009.
According to an earlier report on the department's travels, it looked as though travel-related expenses might have been going down in early 2010 when compared to the previous year. Travel in January through the end of April 2010 totaled about $5,000 less than the same four-month span in 2009. But according to the new records released by department, travel in the final six months of fiscal years 2009 and 2010 have remained roughly the same, each coming in at about $14,000 in that designated time span.
Luna believes there is value in visiting children across the state because he feels the experiences make 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 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 told IdahoReporter.com.