GENESEE COUNTY, Mich.Genesee County school officials have spent at least $365,000 in the past three years traveling to conferences in Orlando and San Diego as well as closer to home, a Flint Journal investigation showed.

The Journal reviewed more than 1,000 pages of receipts, check orders and expense forms obtained from the county’s 22 public school districts under the Freedom of Information Act, according to a report published Sunday. The report highlighted such cases as the Beecher school district, which sent five board members to a national conference in San Francisco in 2007 and seven members to the next year’s conference in Orlando, the report said. Combined costs were about $28,800.

The Genesee Intermediate School District spent $62,000 on 29 trips during the time period examined, The Journal reported.

"If it ain't benefiting the kids, they shouldn't be spending the money," Darrell Walker, 46, told The Journal. “They don't need to spend that so they can go off on a vacation pretending it's all business."

Educators told The Journal that the conferences are necessary, even during years of declining enrollment and budget deficits, as a way to keep current with new ideas.

The Montrose School District spent only $973 for three trips, The Journal reported. Superintendent Mark Kleinhans said the district has essentially eliminated travel outside the county, with few exceptions.

The Flint Journal, “Genesee County school boards, superintendents rack up $370,000 in travel expenses,” April 12, 2009

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “The Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible Public School Districts,” Dec. 3, 2002