Eleven-year-old Clayton Lundstrom couldn’t wait for sixth grade, the year he’d get to spend three days hiking, identifying plants and singing songs around a bonfire in the Cascade Mountains with his classmates. The trip to the Cispus Learning Center has been a rite of passage for sixth-graders in his Washington state district for almost 20 years.
But earlier this year, the Tumwater School District yanked funding for it, and unless the Parent Teacher Association can raise enough money, Clayton’s class will stay home. “I’ve been waiting to go to Cispus basically since first grade,” Clayton says.
As schools across the country face massive budget cuts and parents face their own financial shortfalls, field trips are getting canceled in droves. More than one in six schools plans to eliminate trips this year, according to a survey by the American Association of School Administrators. That’s up from 9% last year. By next school year, one in four schools will need to cut field trips, according to the survey.
Even when trips aren’t canceled, there often are downgrades. After budget cuts in Eau Claire, Wisc., the Northstar Middle School couldn’t pay for the eighth-grade trip to Minneapolis to see a performance of “A Christmas Carol” at the landmark Guthrie Theater, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. Instead, the students will go to the local movie theater to see the Disney 3-D movie version of the Charles Dickens classic.