When a decision from the former-Commissioner of Education, supported by the ACLU, came out last April and affirmed guidelines for equity in the administration of public school field trips, it provoked considerable and extensive confusion and public attention. Even before this year’s legislative session began, it seemed inevitable that legislation to address this topic would swiftly move through the General Assembly.
As predicted, two pieces of legislation quickly introduced in the House of Representatives attempted to address the former-Commissioner’s decision by statutorily allowing for parental contributions towards the funding of school field trips. However, what the former Commissioner’s decision appropriately noted is that in order to ensure accessibility and equity for all students regarding these formative educational experiences, no student or parent can be required to provide payment for these trips or be forced into the stigmatizing position of asking for a fee waiver for financial reasons. We offered several amendments to these two pieces of legislation, H 7043 and H 7069, to ensure the essence of the Commissioner’s ruling remains intact. The House amended their legislation to reflect our concerns, and we supported the amended version which passed on the House floor.
The Senate additionally introduced legislation concerning field trips which we supported; we did, however, urge amendments to clarify the strictly voluntary nature of any requested donations.