THIS CITY'S public school system is just one part of the local government that is supposedly trying to tighten its belt. Administrators and the board of education say the $7 million the D.C. Council trimmed from the schools budget this year has forced them to curtail travel, to cut funds for summer school and to freeze vacant positions. Recently some parents whose children are in special education classes in the District complained about personnel and equipment needs that school officials say they cannot afford to meet. That's particularly interesting, given that the school system apparently can afford to send several special education officials on a two-day trip to a resort hotel in Fredericksburg, Va.

Some 150 school system employees in all (150!) will be going to the Sheraton Resort Hotel this month to talk among themselves about special education. This is not a major conference involving national experts. School officials said there is a greater chance of getting serious work done outside the city. The total tab for this excursion works out to $20,000 in school system funds. Of course, D.C officials say the bill has already been paid. Makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

School Superintendent Andrew Jenkins is defending the excursion. "To question it -- that's a bunch of crap," Dr. Jenkins told a reporter. But several D.C. school board members are appalled, and rightly so. "I think this is ridiculous," said board member R. David Hall, "We're in the hole $7 million. . . . People apparently have not got the message that money is short." Karen Shook, the board member whose committee monitors special education in the District, said she first learned of the trip from a reporter. "I'm very concerned about this," Mrs. Shook said, "It {the trip} shouldn't be taking place." Another board member said the trip represented "a total disregard of board policy."

The timing, of course, couldn't be worse. Congress next week will be considering the school system's fiscal 1991 budget. School officials and their supporters will be asking Congress for $46 million in additional funding -- $10 million of which would be earmarked for emergency repairs of thousands of fire code and building code violations in the schools. The next time school system administrators feel a need to pamper themselves in order to get their work done, they should remember the dilapidated and unsafe conditions many students face every day they go to school.