Travel is educational, no question about it.
But Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday's travel as a guest of a foundation closely associated with an educational publishing company that does major business with the state does raise questions.
It is probably true that Holliday broke no laws nor violated any state ethics regulations by taking trips to China and Brazil paid for by the Pearson Foundation.
Still, this just doesn't pass the smell test. As even the youngest students of economics learn, there is no free lunch and certainly it follows that there's no free trip.
These trips to education conferences also include meetings with top Pearson Inc. executives. The New York Times reported that 12 Pearson Inc. executives went on one of these trips to Finland and nine attended a similar conference in Singapore. The Times also identified a woman who serves as vice president of strategic partnerships for both the company and the foundation.
Holliday went to China on the Pearson Foundation's dime (the actual cost of the trip wasn't available, the Times said) in May — the month after Kentucky awarded a $57.7 million contract to Pearson Inc. to run the state's new testing program — choosing it over CTB/McGraw Hill which had bid $2 million lower.
An education spokeswoman told the Times that Holliday played no role in awarding the contract and that it was based on best value, not simply lowest bid.
That's all easy to believe, but it would be even easier if Holliday had not taken the trips where he mingled with Pearson Inc. executives.
The bottom line is that if Holiday, or another public-education executive, can justify attending a conference based on the value it will bring to Kentucky's education system, then the taxpayers should foot the bill.
If it can't be justified at taxpayer expense, then it can't be justified.