RI lawmakers consider bill that would let schools ask parents to pay for field trips

Politics

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — State lawmakers are taking another look at a proposal that would give schools permission to ask parents to pay for field trips.

The legislation would reverse a mandate set by former Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner, which states schools are not allowed to charge students to participate in field trips.

Rep. Joseph McNamara, the chairman of the R.I. House Health, Education and Welfare Committee, is behind the bill. He said the current mandate has resulted in fewer field trips, and those are experiences students can’t afford to lose.

“I remember the field trips I went on in junior high and high school, even elementary school,” he said. “They are very valuable.”

McNamara said under the proposed legislation, schools can ask parents to help pay for district-sponsored field trips, but it’s going to be considered a donation.

“School Departments, principals and school committees can set a minimum fundraising goal,” he explained. “If it doesn’t reach the goal, they can return the money they collected and the field trip doesn’t go on, so it won’t create an unfunded mandate.”

He also said the latest version of the bill, logistically, addresses concerns raised by school committees.

McNamara said people were worried about previous versions of the bill because they felt students who couldn’t afford the field trip would be singled out.

He said this version of the bill undeniably protects that.

“It protects the privacy of the student, who maybe can’t afford or doesn’t participate in any fundraising, but most importantly, it [guarantees] that no student will be left behind on a school field trip, which are so valuable in the education of our students,” McNamara said.

Right now, there is no clear timeline as to when the bill could move forward.

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