You might have noticed that I didn’t chat with school board members Katherine Nakamura or John de Beck for my story Wednesday. The reason? They’re in China.

The San Diego Unified school board accepted a donation and sent Nakamura, de Beck and Sally Steadman to China for a week-long educational tour. Steadman handles parent inquiries in Area 1, which includes schools in Point Loma and University City.

San Diego Unified estimated the value of the travel, food and accommodations at $5,000 per person, provided by Hanban, also known as the Office of Chinese Language Council International. Hanban is a nonprofit affiliated with China’s Ministry of Education aimed at helping teach the Chinese language worldwide.

Such trips will soon be illegal. The Fair Political Practices Commission recently closed a loophole allowing nonprofits to donate trips to public agencies, provided the agency decides which official gets to go. (You might remember Rob Davis following this story, inspired by County Supervisor Ron Roberts’ multiple trips to China.) It goes into effect July 1 — the same day that the China tour ends — and puts the kibosh on most trip donations.

Unfortunately, it looks like I should have called to ask about this program last week: Everyone who can answer my questions is in China, a College Board staffer told me.


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