AUSTIN (AP) – The state Board of Education has given approval for its members to take all-expenses-paid trips touring out-of-state charter school networks seeking approval to operate in Texas.

The fact-finding missions will be funded by private foundations or individual donors — not taxpayers or the charter schools themselves.

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Friday’s vote was unanimous among the board’s 10 Republicans and five Democrats.

Critics deride such travel as junkets and worry about conflicts of interest. They say private money shouldn’t be allowed to influence decisions about which charter schools are ultimately approved to receive public education funding.

But board members say seeing first-hand the schools run by charter applicants is more important than ever. They point to calls from the Texas Legislature to let more out-of-state charter networks operate in Texas.

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