Editorial: The schools need help, or field trips will be forgotten

Posted 9/12/19

Families cannot be asked to pay for field trips, and because of that, thousands of students will be denied enriching experiences and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Hyperbole? Unfortunately, …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Not a subscriber?


Start a Subscription

Sign up to start a subscription today! Click here to see your options.

Purchase a day pass

Purchase 24 hours of website access for $2. Click here to continue

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.


Editorial: The schools need help, or field trips will be forgotten

Posted

Families cannot be asked to pay for field trips, and because of that, thousands of students will be denied enriching experiences and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Hyperbole? Unfortunately, no.

A ruling by the outgoing Commission of Education last spring seemed innocuous enough at first, but when school and PTO leaders took time to digest its true meaning, they realized it has a dramatic impact on nearly everything students do outside of schools.

The ruling is simple: Districts cannot ask families to pay for school-related activities, such as field trips. No more “suggested donations,” travel fees or field trip fees — period.

The ruling, which came in response to an ACLU challenge, is well-intentioned. It protects families who cannot afford field trips or other activities from a) subjecting their children to a lesser educational experience; or b) the shame of not having the same opportunities as their peers.

The law of unintended consequences, however, will deny thousands of Rhode Island schoolchildren an array of wonderful and enriching experiences.

Gone or in imminent jeopardy are:

• Kickemuit Middle School’s seventh-grade trip to Nature’s Classroom, an outdoor camping and educational experience shared by hundreds of students annually.

• Mt. Hope High School’s band trip to march and perform in Disney World.

• Barrington Middle School’s eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C., and seventh-grade trip to Philadelphia.

• The Portsmouth Marching Band’s annual trip to Florida.

All are extremely expensive endeavors, and yes, they place a financial burden on those families. However, they also create lifelong memories and learning opportunities that will never be replaced. Try organizing a road trip with 100 friends to visit some of the most spectacular places in America, all with responsible chaperones and creating irreplaceable moments for bonding, team-building and, yes, a whole lot of all-too-rare fun.

Districts will not budget additional hundreds of thousands of dollars to send students on these trips. PTOs cannot possibly hold enough cake walks and candy bar drives to pay for them (besides, what monies they do raise will undoubtedly pay for smaller trips to places like the zoo, museum or nature center). And families are forbidden from paying.

If these communities value these opportunities enough, there are two remedies. First, they can convince their state legislators to get involved and make changes to Rhode Island education law. Secondly, a wider community of citizens, businesses and nonprofits can collaborate to raise the money and replace these lost opportunities.

It would be a shame to see all these traditions lost forever, and to see thousands of young people lose some of the best experiences of their lives.

2020 by East Bay Newspapers

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.