Is it a trip to Hawaii or a necessary educational expense? This is a debate heating up across the state of Ohio as school retirees and taxpayers are outraged.
Two members of the School Employees Retirement System are scheduled to attend an educational conference in May. They say the money is being well spent.
For every teacher, bus driver, administrative assistants, cafeteria workers and custodians who benefits from the School Employees Retirement System pension, there are just a handful of colleagues deciding how to invest that $11.4 billion fund. To do that, they say they need training.
"This is not our norm. We don't know this stuff off the top of our head. And for people who think that we should, shame on them. Because I don't think they do and we're just your everyday school bus drivers, secretary, custodian, that sits on this board," says Cathie Moss, one of the board members headed to the conference.
This year, the conference is being held at the Hilton Hawaiian Village and that's not sitting well taxpayers.
"The constituents are saying 100 percent through Facebook, through Tweet, through email, through snail mail, through every other medium of communication that they find this trip offensive," says fellow board member Nancy Edwards.
At one point, SERS board members voted to rescind the trip, but the majority favored to still send Barbara Phillips and Cathie Moss.
"This conference is costing, for two of us to go now, it's costing less than 4 cents per member per year, which I think is a pretty good value for their dollar," says Moss.
Moss says of all the conferences she's attended in her nine years as a board member, this trip to Hawaii is one of the cheapest, and thinks its just the word "Hawaii" that has everyone outraged.
She says the schedule for the conference is so rigorous, there's no time for the beach or sight-seeing.
The Ohio Retirement Study Council found SERS spends more on travel than any other pension in the state. There was a vote to limit out-of-state travel expenses to $6,000 per member, but the board voted against it.
Some who oppose the travel altogether say the same classes are available to these board members for free at Ohio State University.