The Chinese government is again paying to bring San Diego Unified officials to see Chinese schools. And San Diego Unified will still cover some of the trip’s costs despite a just-imposed spending freeze at the district.

Last year, school board members John de Beck and Katherine Nakamura went along with a parent liaison; now board President Shelia Jackson is slated to go along with four other employees, including its directors of communications and language acquisition. The trip from Los Angeles to China is being paid for a nonprofit affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education.

Unfortunately, it still has a price tag for San Diego Unified: The school district has been cutting down on costs amid a spending freeze, but is asking the school board to approve $835 for registration and airfare for Jackson to Los Angeles, paid for out of the school board budget.

The Chinese nonprofit is only paying to get them from Los Angeles to China and covering their costs once they get there. It isn’t clear how the traveling employees will pay the costs of registration and travel to L.A. or which budget string it would come from; I’m still tracking down the details on that.

Though the Fair Political Practices Commission, which clamped down on donated travel for public officials last year, school district attorney Mark Bresee said the trip is still permissible because it falls under an exemption for legislative or governmental travel that is provided by a foreign government or nonprofit.

Update: I heard back from Bernie Rhinerson, chief district relations officer for San Diego Unified and one of the four employees going to China. He said the only costs for San Diego Unified will be the expenses requested for Jackson; the other employees are either covering their costs or have a grant that will pay for them.


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