May 12, 2014[Madison, Wisc…] The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and University of Wisconsin System spent more than $20,000 on the White Privilege Conference according to records available at the state’s transparency website, OpenBook.wi.gov.
The 15th annual national White Privilege conference was held in Madison in late March. The MacIver Institute reported on two sessions that took place at the conference. The facilitator in the first workshop called teaching “a political act,” while the second attacked the Tea Party for being racist.
Other workshops included discussions about white privilege in elementary classrooms and promoting issues of social justice.
Media Trackers originally broke the story that taxpayer dollars were being used in part to fund the conference.
According to OpenBook.wi.gov, the UW System spent $18,157.50 on the conference and DPI spent $2,070.
The UW System spent $9040.50 on travel expenses for non-state employees, $5,000 on professional services relating to the conference, and $4,117 on travel costs for an in-state conference, convention, and training.
In an attempt to confirm costs and find any additional expenditures, MacIver contacted the UW System on April 21st. As of May 9th, UW was still compiling the total costs from each campus, but did provide some information about expenditures from UW-Eau Claire.
A campus spokesman said UW-Eau Claire spent $2,000 to sponsor the conference and an estimated $5,000 for hotel, travel and meal costs. It is unclear if UW-Eau Claire’s costs are included in the $18,000 total from the UW System listed on OpenBook.wi.gov.
Heather LaRoi, Strategic Communications Manager for the UW System, told MacIver that the UW System did not sponsor the event.
“UW System Administration did not co-sponsor or lead the White Privilege Conference,” LaRoi said in an email. “Costs for any employee from UW System institutions registering for the event would have been covered by an individual employee, his or her department, school/college, or institution.”
DPI made two separate credit card payments to the conference. The first transaction was for $230 and the second was $1,840.
The WPC website listed registration rates for non-profits and K-12 staff at $230 per person. Based on that data, it would seem that DPI paid for nine staff members to attend the four-day conference.
After multiple attempts to confirm the expenditures from DPI and find out who attended the conference, MacIver filed an Open Records Request on April 29th. DPI did not answer until a second email was sent on May 9th. An attorney with DPI said the department “is in the process of responding”
The conference aimed to provide “a challenging, collaborative and comprehensive experience,” and “empower and equip individuals to work for equity and justice through self and social transformation,” according to its website.
The MacIver Institute will continue to research how much taxpayer money was spent on the conference, and this article will be updated when the UW System and DPI respond to MacIver’s outstanding requests.