The head of Citizen Outreach has charged the State Board of Education is wasting $2,757 in public money by sending one of its members to the National Conference of State Legislatures annual meeting in August.
Longtime Las Vegas conservative activist Chuck Muth, who now operates in Carson City, called on board president Cliff Ferry to allow debate and a vote on the item at Friday's meeting.
"Why is the board authorizing the expenditure of taxpayer dollars to send a member of the board of education to a legislators' conference," he asked Ferry. "Isn't that what we elect legislators for?"
He termed the proposed trip a "junket," saying he, too, is attending the conference and would be glad to provide the board with a report for free.
Muth said the item is on the "consent agenda" which means it would get approved along with a dozen other items with no discussion and a single vote. He demanded Ferry at least put the item on the regular agenda so it can be fully discussed.
And he said Ferry's offer to hear his arguments in the public comment portion of the agenda were not sufficient because that means the trip would already be approved before opponents get the chance to comment.
Board member Barbara Myers of Carson City said she applied to attend the conference in Nashville because there are major education issues on the agenda.
"I've been told by numerous people in the past this is the place to go to see what's on the (national legislative) agenda for the coming year."
She said that board of education needs to know how what specific education issues are coming up this year and how they're being framed by lawmakers.
"They're talking about what is adequate education, does money matter in education, bridging the achievement gap in kindergarten, why girls out-perform boys," she said. "Topics like those will come up before our Legislature.
"This conference isn't just designed for legislators," she said, adding that the information she'll receive at the conference will help the entire board meet challenges facing education in Nevada.
Myers confirmed she has received a number of e-mails on the subject from Muth as well as form-letter e-mail protests from a variety of his supporters.
Muth said that even if the trip is worth it, the budget is far too high. He said he can get a round-trip airfare, motel and car plus the $650 conference registration fee - for a total of about $1,300 - half the proposed budget for Myers' trip.
She said she couldn't respond to that because she didn't develop the budget for the trip - the State Department of Education staff did.
But, she said, one reason she was put in a more expensive hotel was there are no vacancies in the cheaper place near the convention center.
She also said this is the first conference she has asked to go to in the four years since the policy was created encouraging members to attend relevant national conferences and study sessions.
"I'm not totally against her going," said Muth. He agreed with Myers that NCSL conferences provide a wealth of valuable information - and not just for lawmakers.
"But we need to discuss it, and she needs to justify it," he said.
The board meeting is scheduled for Friday in Las Vegas.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.