News Story

Detroit Schools Spent $250K Sending Students, Staff To Italy

State’s largest district spent $961,534 on out-of-state travel; second-largest district spent just $18,397

The Detroit Public Schools Community District reported spending $250,000 in August 2019 to send 53 high school students and 11 employees on a 10-day trip to Italy.

The trip was paid for by a federal grant program (known as Title IV) managed by the U.S. Department of Education.

The district disclosed that it had $961,534 in out-of-state travel expenses in 2018-19, as required by a state law directing school districts to post such expenses on their websites. By comparison, Utica Community Schools, the second-largest school district in the state, reported spending just $18,397 for out-of-state travel in 2018-19. The level of detail and precision in these disclosures varies across school districts.

For example, the Detroit district reported in the previous year (2017-18) that it had spent $286,586 sending staff to a six-day conference in Los Angeles in 2018. But when Michigan Capitol Confidential requested details of the expenses incurred for that trip, the district reported it had actually spent just $127,409, saying the $286,586 figure was the amount approved by the school board.

The district did not provide any information on expenses for the Italy trip other than its total cost.

Expenses for the tour, called “Italy in Depth,” included round-trip air-fares, hotel accommodations in Venice, Florence, Sorrento and Rome, plus breakfasts, dinners, and tickets to sites and museums.

Students on the trip were selected based on their grade point average, exemplary citizenship and interest in learning about the culture of Italy, according to the school district. Preferences were given to students from low-income families.

The idea of sending staff and students to Italy was approved by the school board. The district cited research showing that students who travel abroad have greater academic success and a greater number of occupational opportunities.