By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Rep. Joseph McNamara* (Dist. 19, Warwick and Cranston) introduced a bill Monday that would allow parents to contribute toward school field trips. The legislation (2020-H 7069) would counteract an advisory opinion issued by former state education commissioner Ken Wagner to the East Greenwich School Committee in April stating that parent fees are not allowed for field trips. 

While it was the EG School Committee that sought the opinion (following persistent objections to parent fees first from Committeeman Matt Plain, then others on the panel), school districts across the state were left scrambling, including East Greenwich, over funding for 2019-20 field trips. 

The advisory opinion was limited to field trips, but it raised issues about parent fees for all kinds of school-sponsored activities, including such as dances, theater productions, and club competitions. McNamara’s bill would allow for parent or guardian contributions to cover, in whole or in part, those costs, “provided that the district would pay the costs to meet any deficit.”

In a press release, McNamara said he proposed the bill because “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.”

The East Greenwich School Committee has consistently said they had no intention of eliminating trips. They approved a new fundraising policy in June that would allow for fundraising and for parents to contribute to field trips – as long as it wasn’t made a requirement. Questions remain, however, about the viability of costly trips, or even trips like the one to Six Flags taken by EGHS physics classes each spring. 

Rep. Justine Caldwell (Dist. 30, East Greenwich and West Greenwich) is one of the co-sponsors of the bill. In the press release, it said the bill had the support of House leadership. It has been referred to the Health, Education and Welfare Committee.

*Rep. McNamara is no relation to the author.

Here are some stories about the East Greenwich School Committee and field trip funding:

School Committee Budgets $50,000 for Field Trips; Hopes Money Won’t Be Needed 
Questions, Confusion Continue Over Field Trips
Field Trip Policy Challenge: How to Handle Club Trips?
District Works to Bridge Field Trip Fee Gap; New Commissioner Seeks to Clarify Issue
RIDE: Schools Can’t Charge Fees for Field Trips. Period.


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