Travel costs for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board are rising, in part because members want to have a stronger voice in national policy.
The board allots $5,150 a year for the chairman to travel and $3,100 for each of the other eight members, a total of $29,950 a year. For the last couple of years they spent far less -- $17,529 in 2011-12 and $12,500 the year before.
This month, Ellis-Stewart went to a CUBE summer issues seminar in Seattle at a cost of about $1,870. She was one of three members, along with McCray and Joyce Waddell, who went to the National School Boards Association annual conference in San Diego, at a cost of more than $2,000 each. She also spent almost $1,200 on an NSBA Federal Relations Network conference in Washington, D.C., and about the same on a trip to Indianapolis for the Council of the Great City Schools fall conference.
Ellis-Stewart's role is part of the board's strategy for making their views known to local, state and national lawmakers, all of whom shape education policy and spending in CMS. McCray, a Democrat, and Vice Chair Tim Morgan, a Republican, have spent a lot of energy lobbying the Republican-dominated state legislature and the Democratic-majority county commission. Ellis-Stewart, also a Democrat, was tapped to be the expert in national issues.
McCray was the second-largest spender, with a 2012-13 tab just over $4,500. Other than the San Diego conference, that travel was in-state. Morgan spent about $1,200, all of it for in-state travel.
Waddell spent just over $4,000 on the San Diego trip and four in-state conferences, including some of Richard McElrath's unspent allotment.
Eric Davis took the most expensive single trip, spending almost $3,100 to join the Chamber of Commerce inter-city trip to New York City in October 2012.
Rhonda Lennon and Richard McElrath spent nothing on travel last year, according to the CMS tally.