PROVIDENCE — Rep. Joseph M. McNamara’s (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) bill would make it easier for school districts to raise money for field trips and dances, which may help restore some field trips cancelled last year due to a ruling against student-funded activities.
The legislation (2020-H 7069) would allow a school district to request a contribution of money from a student or the student’s parent or legal guardian to pay, in whole or in part, for the cost of district sponsored field trips, dances, clubs, and other district sponsored or based programs of extracurricular activities, provided that the district would pay the costs to meet any deficit.
The legislation is in response to a ruling provided to the East Greenwich School Department April 10, 2019, prohibiting school districts from charging students for field trips organized by the district using district resources and staff time. Fundraising for trips is permitted, so long as individual students don’t have mandated fundraising targets as a requirement for participation. (See the attached letter from RIDE).
Last year, many school districts canceled field trips in the wake the ruling.
“The RIDE guidance on field trips has made it incredibly difficult to run field trips at they’ve run in the past,” said Warwick School Committee member David Testa.
“Other districts have developed policies to try to mitigate it as much as possible but absent a change in the legislation, trips like the annual Washington DC trip in the Middle Schools are very difficult to do. The annual band & Chorus trips, which two of my three kids enjoyed, won’t be enjoyed by my daughter, who is a Senior this year,” Testa said.
McNamara’s bill amends the law to add, “The provisions of this section shall not prohibit a school district from requesting a contribution of money from a student or the student’s parent or legal guardian to pay, in whole or in part, for the cost of district-sponsored field trips, dances, clubs, and other district sponsored or based programs of extracurricular activities (“activities”), provided that the district shall pay for the costs to attend and participate in these activities to meet any deficit. No students shall be individually identified in regard to these contributions. The provisions of this section shall not prohibit a school district from establishing a minimum goal for fundraising and to receive contributions or gifts of money as a prerequisite to determining whether the district shall undertake or participate in an activity.”
“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,” said McNamara, a former educator who chairs the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee.
Superintendent Philip Thornton said the bill will help schools offer field trips.
“While I’ll defer to our legal counsel, I’m not sure if that’ll solve this. It essentially says that schools will ask parents to contribute and the district will make up the difference,” Testa said. “Where would that money come from? The school lunch issue provided a pretty clear example that those who are able to pay don’t pay so I would expect similar behavior on a request for funds for field trips,” he added.
The bill, McNamara says, would codify the ability of school districts to request money, establish a minimum goal for fundraising and to receive contributions or gifts of money as a prerequisite to determining whether the district would participate in the activity.
The legislation, cosponsored by Representatives Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), Thomas E. Noret (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick), Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln), and John W. Lyle Jr. (R-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket), has been referred to the Health, Education and Welfare Committee.