EDITORIAL: Making Field Trips Available to All

EDITORIAL: Making Field Trips Available to All

By Tam News Staff

Tam is a school that is privileged to offer its students a variety of field trips every year. From small trips to Mill Valley City Hall to numerous foreign trips, our school provides learning opportunities that aren’t available at many other schools. But for some students at Tam, the opportunities that these field trips present aren’t as accessible as they are to others. This especially becomes a problem when one considers that in order to earn board approval, an off campus excursion must be a more valuable experience than class time.

Current district policy requires that “no student shall be denied a field trip or an experience comparable to that of his/her classmates because of a lack of sufficient funds,” but rare is the classroom in which this is the reality. Furthermore, field trips have to be approved by the board as more valuable than class time.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that teachers present field trips in non-uniform manners, from telling students a field trip costs a certain amount, to requesting parent donations with or without a full explanation that all students are able to attend, regardless of whether their parents donate.

Student responses are also varied, with some lower income students assuming they can’t go on expensive trips and not even bothering to talk to the teachers because they think that nothing can be done.

Stricter adherence to board policy may mean fewer field trips, but if the cost for everyone having the same learning opportunities is that those who have the extra cash to go on expensive trips will have to do those trips outside of school, that is worth it.

Recently, the Tam High Foundation set aside $30,000 to be used at the principal’s discretion for field trips at Tam. This is a step in the right direction, but not nearly enough to cover the costs of making all field trips equitable.

To understand these costs, consider that the Tam News staff took a trip to Boston for the National Scholastic Press Association convention in November. We introduced the trip by emphasizing that 100 percent of students’ financial needs were met, no questions asked. Of the 44 students that went on the trip, 50 percent received either a full or partial scholarship. Because 30 percent of the overall costs were not covered through parent donations, The Tam News had to raise $13,000—nearly half of the Foundation’s fund—through ad revenue and patronships to cover the requested assistance.

Unfortunately, funds are not currently allocated by the school or the district to cover the enormous costs of equitable field trips, and The Tam News is an atypical program with unique fundraising mechanisms. Whether additional funds come from the Foundation or the district, there will be the concern that families who don’t need financial aid will abuse the system to get a free trip at the expense of the school. In many cases, pride would prevent misuses of this honor system, at least enough to cover losses from abuse while still making field trips universally accessible.

Funding aside, the core problem at hand is a historic misinterpretation of board policy by teachers. Tam’s collective perception that a significant majority of students are wealthy can lead to shaming and exclusion if teachers don’t introduce field trips properly. The current board policy requires a collectivization of funds wherein funds are raised for the class as a whole. Teachers should endeavor to more closely follow board policy and push for additional funds from the district site and outside foundations in order to ensure equal opportunities for all students.