Why are schools asking for “donations” for field trips?


We got a field trip form last week, and after looking at it, I started scratching my head (figuratively). Then, I took to “the Facebook” because I was and still am genuinely confused.

The first field trip form, I thought it was just an error, the second has me calling it a trend…now they are calling the cost of a field trip a “donation”? Um….that’s not right.

Webster defines DONATION as the following: 

a : the making of a gift especially to a charity or public institution 

b : a free contribution : gift

So, when parents don’t want to make a “donation” their kids don’t go on the field trip? Or is it that the school just doesn’t get as much money and they still don’t get to go? Am I missing something?

Why would you want to make something like this LESS clear?

“Here is the cost for the field trip. Please pay by XX/XX/XX if you want your child to go!” That’s not too hard, right?

The politics of school field trips and

I have no issue paying, but I want to be told what the expectation is. If it’s a donation, how many parents are choosing not to make the donation? How much am I over paying if I do make a donation and others choose not to? I’m happy to even help out when a family can’t afford for their child to go, I just want to know it.

If I was a parent who couldn’t afford it, what would I make of this? Would I assume that I had to pay the donation ($16 this time) or my child couldn’t go? Would I pull from my food money so my kid could go when I really shouldn’t because I don’t want them to be excluded? Would I know that I could ask the school for help (is that even an option)?

Spell it out here, schools. Stop being political. I’ve been told that this is the wording because schools “can’t ask you to pay for a field trip.” Um. Then, DON’T ASK US TO PAY! How is this any different?

I’ve been told that children can’t go on field trips if they don’t make the “required” donation. So, now they are excluded from our publicly tax-funded school programs? Because they didn’t make a donation? 

I’m not trying to be insensitive to those who can’t pay. I’m not thinking about that aspect. I am thinking of those who can pay and why it’s called a donation and how it all works out.

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  1. I got a field trip form this week that not only asked for a donation but they aren’t even leaving the school. It’s for arts and craft materials. They make things so ridiculous these days. Why not have parents donate the craft material for the Native American day. They are literally buying feathers, beads and paper for the kids and calling it a field trip. They better go somewhere this year or I’m going to be irate, I’d rather my “donations” be put to better use then making a costume.

    1. We have in-house field trips, too. I can’t even understand why they call it a field trip.

  2. Ever since reading your initial post on Facebook, I’ve been wondering what our forms say. My son had his first field trip at the beginning of October, but, honestly, I just signed the form and sent in a check. I don’t recall the wording at all. But, I agree, let’s just simply state XX is the “fee” for the field trip and due by XX date because “donation” implies you have an option of how much (if at all) money to send.

    1. It really should just be completely clear…like don’t leave anything up for interpretation at all!

  3. Crystal F says:

    I was in the PTO for six years. We paid for kids that couldn’t afford to pay for field trips. Our permission slips tell us what we have to pay. Asking for a donation is implying that they don’t have to send in money if the don’t want to. I don’t think it’s fair for a child not to be able to go on a field trip because their parents can’t afford to pay.

    1. I need to find out if our PTO pays or if we can make a donation. When I was teaching, the kids that didn’t pay didn’t go on the trip. And, if the PTO has to cover for parents that don’t want to make a donation, that’s terrible and taking from those that can’t.

  4. I agree with you. It should be called a fee, not a donation. It should be clearly stated that if you cannot afford the fee arrangements can be made to pay for your child to go and all children will be able to go on the field trip despite the ability to pay the fee. If I remember correctly, this is how it’s done for at my children’s schools for marching band outings, sports meets, club outings, etc.
    I bet donation was used to “soften” the language somehow and they didn’t realize it changed the meaning. Now it looks like the fee for the trips is optional.

    1. And making an optional for people that can afford it isn’t the right thing to do at all! Sometimes things are so over-protective that it ends up being just plan nonsensical!

  5. Sounds like someone’s overly politically correct. I’m with you. Tell me what it costs. I’ll pay for my kid and if there’s another kid who can’t go I’ll do my best to take care of that. But for the love, don’t call it a donation. Its a fee.

    1. Yep! I want to help out if I can…and I’m sure others do too, but I’d rather not help out people that don’t need it and are just choosing not to “donate.”

  6. Our field trip forms simply state how much we must pay for our child to attend. Our district also has funds available for those who cannot afford the costs of field trips. I have never seen the word donation on any of our field trip forms.

  7. Our school has a secret donation. They ask each parent, if they can, to give $10 per student. At the school conferences or Back to School nights you could slip $10 (or more) to cover those who can’t afford to go into the box for the school field trips. No one ever knows who gives or who does not. There is no shaming and if they don’t raise enough money they cut back on the field trips. Simple enough.

  8. Public schools are underfunded, that’s the problem. There isn’t enough in the budget for things like the music program, art masters, and field trips. My children’s school does the same thing withe the “donation” wording, as they cannot exclude children from participating since it IS a public school. This has always been printed at the bottom of the paper they send home, clarifying that the “donation” is only a donation and not donating will not keep your child from participation. Sometimes if the “donation” is just $10 or something like that, I will pay double the amount for the child who either can’t afford it, or the parent forgets to send in the donation. (I’m a super busy mom of ten and one more on the way…and I have been known to forget to send things back to the school when they are asked for, so I know how this can happen) — anyway, I’m not really angry at the school for asking for the “donation” and I’m more at our country for undervaluing our education system. When I was young, ALL things were paid for with my public education. School supplies, art classes, the music program and field trips. But now? Things are different. I guess every state might be different, but here in CA we have to pay for everything, it seems. At the beginning of each school year, they ask for a “donation” of paper, pencils, crayon, binders, Kleenex, sanitizers for the classroom….so much! And if you don’t send the items in, they send you a “gentle” reminder of the “suggested classroom donation” LOL

  9. They really should make it clear, a fee and a donation are two completely different things. If you mixed the two up on a test the teacher would mark you wrong, the school should know better

  10. Read this from somewhere and thought I would post. I’m not sure though if it’s a nationwide law-but it is in California.
    The Assembly Bill 1575 goes over the things public school cannot charge for. The short summary of these items are:
    1. Science lab equipment or supplies
    2. PE uniforms required to take the class
    3. Participating in sports teams
    4. Attending graduation ceremonies
    5. Books used in class
    6. Photography or art class supplies
    7. Attending summer school

    With this in place, my inbox is bombarded with school emails requesting donations or some sort of fundraiser atleast 6 times a day.
    My kids go to Poway Unified School district-known to be the best school district with affluent families with deep pockets (except me). The Mello Roos is above the norm and yet the school is always broke-go figure.

  11. Gus Mujica says:

    This is an interesting post. I am the president of the PTO at our school and we have may low income families. Historically , the PTO has provided the field trips for the kids. Some parents think it’s free, but this is a donation to the School from the PTO. The PTO then has to raise these funds elsewhere. I think most parents would rather pay the 10 dollars for their child’s field trip than participate in a fundraiser. There are always exceptions. The point is some can afford it, some can’t .We want to make sure everyone can participate regardless.
    Our PTO is set up as a completely separate entity from the school and is a nonprofit organization. It’s set up that way so that we have more freedom as to how the parents want to see the money spent. Maybe that needs to be clarified in your school. Non profit organizations work on donations. If it’s truly a donation, than it can deducted on your taxes.
    Also , remember, PTO officers, at least in our school, are all volunteers doing the best they can for free. I’m sure they would appreciate any feedback on how to improve the communications. I know I would.

    1. I very much appreciate our PTO and all of their work.

      I don’t think our PTO has anything to do with field trips or field trip funding. This money goes straight through the school.

      And, yes, most would rather pay $10 then fundraise (in fact, we actually have fundraisers that say something like “here’s $10, I don’t want to buy candy), but many can’t afford it. I’d honestly rather them just tell us how much it costs per kid and then ask if anybody can sponsor another kid that can’t afford it or make a donation on top of it. Just because this wording makes it seem optional.

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