RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)-- In recent months, Richmond Public Schools has come under fire for the way it spends its money.
Earlier this year, RPS announced a $27 million budget shortfall, forcing school administrators to make tough decisions, like laying off employees and cutting programs.
CBS 6 first broke the story about Richmond Public schools spending more than a half a million dollars on hotels and travel from July 2010 to July 2011. The website, EAGnews.org, filed a Freedom of Information Act specifically looking at how Richmond Public Schools spent money on hotel and travel expenses.
Today, school leaders responded to CBS 6, and said that the trips were justified and the spending was not excessive.
"We do some out of state recruiting in order to get the best teachers here in Richmond," Felicia Cosby, RPS spokesperson, said. "We have conferences."
"We have professional development,” Crosby said, and added that "We do look for discounted rates," like government rates.
The hotels listed include:
- $52,00 at the Sheraton Park South
- $32,000 at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg
- $19,000 at the Crowne Plaza Richmond West
- $10,000 at the Holiday Inn South.
The report also revealed that the school system paid six figures, $135,761, to Dalianes World Wide Travel. That’s a California-based travel agency that made reservations for scheduled trips.
"It's an insult to a taxpayer," Kim Gray, Richmond school board member said. She said that "it was not well received," when she tried to cut RPS’s travel expenses. "And it's been very difficult to push forward any new policies with the current school board and the current administration," she said.
Gray said she tried to implement the state’s travel policy which prohibits any out of state travel unless approved on a case by case basis. But Gray says it failed during a budget work session.
Cosby said the RPS is awarded grant money earmarked for travel for professional development and student achievement.
She said that in light of the schools budget crisis, RPS has cutback on the number of people attending out of state conventions. And they’re doing more webinars to help save money.
When CBS 6 first posted the story, Cosby issued a statement. It read:
"The information reported by EAG is not accurate. The organization requested a check registry which lists payments to vendors including pass-thru activities from state-operated and other programs…for which we are the fiscal agent, including the Math, Science and Innovation Center. And the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s school. Therefore, the list does not correlate to the district’s spending activity.”