Noting that student survey data indicates some students either didn’t know about international trips or thought they were too costly, Evanston Township High School board members are urging administrators to ensure that travel opportunities are equitable.
Robert Brown, assistant principal for school operations and logistics, presented a report on proposed student international travel for 2018-19 to the school board Monday.
Brown’s report included student survey data from 2016-2017 as well as information on fund-raising and financial resources.
Brown said that trip sponsors are committed to helping students raise funds and get scholarships and to encouraing students to not let cost be a determining factor in whether they participate in a trip.
Board member Mark Metz noted that in the survey for some trips 30-35 percent of students responding indicated that they hadn’t known about the trip. “If that’s true, there’s some work to do to make sure that information is out to everybody,” Metz said.
“There’s this worry about equity,” Metz added, “about who gets to go and who doesn’t go.”
Metz requested metrics about who went, broken down by free or reduced lunch, as a way of tracking income, and by race, “so we can see if there’s a disparity there.”
“This really is, when it comes to finance, an equity issue,” said Board member Jonathan Baum, adding that this isn’t just a question of families on free and reduced lunch. “There are a lot of middle class families for whom several thousand dollars for a trip is daunting.”
The survey showed that for one trip 27 percent didn’t go for financial reasons and 31 percent didn’t go on another trip for that reason. Baum said, “If this were equitable, those percentages should be zero.”
Robert Brown, assistant principal for school operations and logistics.
Brown responded that the staff works hard to be sure students know financial resources are available, but “some students don’t feel comfortable coming forward and saying they need help.”
Board member Patricia Maunsell asked about outreach plans. “It could be an income thing. It could be: ‘I don’t want to leave my family, I’ve never been on an airplane before.’”
Messaging to kids and families can help break this down, she added, “so we truly can make this accessible to everybody.”
Brown said that when the trips are introduced in class informational nights for parents are also offered, with information about costs and scholarships.
Board member Monique Parsons said there’s more to it than just financial issues. “I also know that there are pockets in our community that don’t feel comfortable going out of the country.”
She said it would be useful to create a plan that makes parents comfortable with allowing their children to go out of the country, but it takes time to get that done.
Superintendent Eric Witherspoon reminded the board that most trips only accommodate 15 to 25 kids. “We can talk about who goes, and how accessible it is,” he said, “but by definition, these will be small groups of students.”
Since this is such a small number of students, “it’s all the more important that they should not be selected on the basis that they can afford it,” said Baum.
Assistant superintendent Marcus Campbell said any student who put in an application for funds received it.