How Parents Can Pitch In
Tight school budgets can make it difficult to pencil in field trips for students during the academic year, but parents and kids can pitch in with fundraising campaigns to help literally expand the horizons of a student’s education.
“By going on field trips, kids get to see the real world. A lot of students don’t otherwise get the chance to go to unique, really great places,” says Matthew Simonds, a former teacher who is now science curriculum coordinator for San Antonio’s Harlandale School District.
“Many years ago there was the perception that teachers took kids on field trips just for the fun of it. Now field trips are more rigorous learning experiences,” he says. However, today’s larger average classroom sizes mean field trips can be more expensive when factoring in the cost per student.
“Elementary schools have so much more funding available. In middle school, there’s a little less. I was a teacher at high school, where money is even tighter,” he says.
Simonds’ school district has created a “Field Trip Resources” page on the district’s website dedicated to several local and national sources of funding. Parents with grant writing experience or strong writing skills can volunteer to help teachers or administrators craft grant proposals or letters.
The San Antonio Water System, for example, offers a mini-grant program that funds school field trips (saws.org/education/grants). The water system will begin accepting proposals in December for grants for field trips in 2015. San Antonio Missions National Park (nps.gov/saan) charges no money for school field trips. Transportation costs can be reimbursed to Title I schools and need-based private schools with a donation from Los Compadres, a group of local park supporters.
Target Corp. awards Target Field Trip Grants each year to K-12 schools around the country. The Valero Chip In For Schools program (valerotexasopen.com/chipin) helps local schools raise money by letting them keep the proceeds from sales of one-day tickets to the San Antonio-based Valero Energy’s annual Valero Texas Open golf tournament.
The PTA at Will Davis Elementary School in Austin has raised funds with Box Tops For Education (boxtops4education.com) campaigns. Kids and parents save box tops from products sold by local companies, earning 10 cents per box top for their school. Kids at Justiss Elementary Schools in Paris, Texas, painted faces at a fall festival at school last spring to raise money for a field trip to a Dallas museum.
Shellie Cecchini, a mother of two and former president of the North East School District Council of PTAs, said one successful fundraiser was to send “greenback” letters home with the kids asking parents to donate what they can for a specific outing.
“The parents in my community would rather write a check than sell items,” she says. “Families that can give more do so, and families that can’t give at all feel no pressure to donate.”
Local San Antonio schools have also raised funds with “fun runs,” at which a donation is made for each lap run by a student at the school track. Local businesses can be approached for a donation in exchange for “logo recognition,” Cecchini says. They can also be asked to donate items for auctions to help schools raise money.
“The Texas PTA encourages all local unit PTAs to incorporate a healthy lifestyle component into their fundraising,” Cecchini says, citing mixedbagdesigns.com as one fundraising source that fits that goal. The website allows schools to keep up to 50 percent of the profits from selling eco-friendly handbags, reusable lunch sacks, laptop bags and tote bags.
“Some things that can go for a lot of money are free things such as homework passes, at the teacher’s discretion, reserved seats at a school event, lunch with the principal or front-of-the-lunch line passes,” Cecchini says.
Paulette Mallard, a former art teacher in the South San Antonio School District, says local foundations helped fund field trips to McNay Art Museum. “These field trips are important because it teaches the kids about culture and fine art from around the world,” Mallard says.
Parents can help reduce the cost of field trips by volunteering to be chaperones, she says. When parents start planning a fundraising campaign for a school field trip, one expense they should keep in mind is the cost of transportation. “You’d be surprised how much a lot of buses charge,” Mallard adds.
Mallard explains that one of best fundraisers she experienced was selling Wash Tub coupons. Students sold coupon books good for multiple car washes at a local Wash Tub facility.
Renee Haines is a San Antonio freelance writer.