An amendment to the R.I. bill of equal access to education to avoid negative implications

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Last month, Rhode Island’s former Education Commissioner Ken Wagner ruled that Rhode Island schools have no right to charge students for field trips or other activities that are traditionally funded by the student’s families. Both the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island and Rhode Island Legal Services have stood behind the decision, stating that this law has been a long time coming and school districts have no right to charge students for school sponsored events. Veronika Kot of RILS said that to charge for school field trips and activities goes against the idea of equity. While many Rhode Islanders see the benefit this law bring to lower- income families, it has a detrimental effect of the continuance of certain clubs and activities. The new state education commissioner Angelica Infante- Green has not yet spoken out about whether she will enforce the decision.

The way that this law has been interpreted leaves any school function or extracurricular activity at risk. Clubs have the opportunity to fundraise and apply for grants however with parents unable to contribute, this opens up the option for all students to attend field trips regardless of their commitment to that extracurricular or their participation in the fundraising process. Clubs such as Model UN, Project Close Up, Ski and Snowboard club, field trips to museums, prom, and other activities, while they way seem small in concern are expensive in cost, are all beneficial to a student’s education and their ultimate high school experience.

The petitioners on this list are requesting a more appropriate interpretation of the law and ask that the state’s new education commissioner, members of the ACLU and members of the RILS think about the effect a vague or even too broad an interpretation of this new law has on certain clubs and extracurricular events.