OTTUMWA, Iowa (AP) — Ottumwa will change how they raise money for student trips to abide by state guidelines even though the move could threaten a program that has helped thousands of children to travel around the country, school officials said.
Iowa Department of Education guidelines indicate the Ottumwa Educational Travel Program, which has operated since 1976, is no longer permitted to keep individual accounts for students.
Larry Northup, travel program director at Evans Middle School, said that any funds raised by students moving forward will be shared and split evenly among the group, the Des Moines Register reported. That includes the $14,500 that is currently in the students' separate accounts.
Nicole Kooiker, superintendent of the Ottumwa Community School District, confirmed that the school district plans to be in compliance with the state's rules.
"The district has been working with the travel program operators over the course of the past year in trying to find resolutions that are the least disruptive for students and families," Kooiker wrote to the newspaper. "We are committed to providing a program that is transparent, accountable and compliant with state regulations."
The district intends to start pooling the funds beginning next school year.
Northup noted that parents are unhappy with the rule change.
"Simply stated, that means a student who does nothing or very little is entitled to just as much money from the pot as the student who works very hard," Northup wrote in a letter to parents.
Staci Hupp, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Education, said the Ottumwa district's head financial officer contacted the state last year regarding the Evans Travel Program.
The state subsequently recommended the district to evaluate its practice of keeping individual accounts for students, she said.
"The school district described the program, which was part of its student activity fund, as each student having a 'personal trip account' managed by the school district," Hupp said. "Fundraising for school district activities is certainly allowed, but individual student fundraising accounts and goals are not — these must reflect all students."
Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com