Bill would allow school districts to request money from students for field trips

Education

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Everyone remembers going on field trips as a kid, but how and who should pay for them is stirring up a lot of debate on Smith Hill.

Last year, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) issued a guidance document that said public school districts could no longer charge students to participate in field trips. Current legislation does allow school districts to organize fundraisers to pay for field trips, though no target goal can be set.

But Rep. Joseph McNamara, who chairs the committee of health, education and welfare, recently introduced a bill that would undo those restrictions.

“Field trips are an important part of learning, enriching the curriculum, strengthening observation skills by immersing children into sensory activities,” McNamara said. “The current policy of the Department of Education regarding the way these activities can be funded has caused many school districts to do away with field trips entirely. That’s just unacceptable, because they are vital in increasing a child’s knowledge of specific subjects, even generating the interest, enthusiasm and passion for subjects that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.”

Under the proposed legislation, school districts would be allowed to request money from students and their parents, in whole or in part, to fund district-sponsored field trips, dances and clubs.

A similar bill, introduced by House Minority Whip Michael Chippendale, would allow school districts to request money from students and their parents as long as the district provides funding to any student whose family cannot afford the trip.

A spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Department of Education said they’re supportive of the proposed legislation so long as students have equal access to opportunities regardless of whether they can pay.

“Our top priority is putting guardrails in place that ensure that students have equal access to these opportunities and that no family feels singled out or ashamed because of an inability to pay,” the spokeswoman said. “We’re supportive of the legislature’s desire to codify that fundraising is allowable, provided that those protections are in place.”

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