Keep Public Education Free
All kids in Rhode Island have the right to a free public education, no matter their race, ethnic background, religion, or sex, or whether they are rich or poor, citizen or non-citizen.
In April 2019, Rhode Island Department of Education Commissioner Ken Wagner issued a guidance document barring school districts from charging students for school-sponsored field trips. This should not have come as a surprise to districts. RIDE opinions spanning decades have rejected efforts to charge students for a variety of activities – including summer school, AP exams, bus transportation, and extra-curricular activities – on the grounds that 1) school districts have no authority under state law to impose fees for these activities AND 2) they interfere with a student’s right to a free and equal public education.
If funds are not available in the school's budget, schools remain free to accept grants, engage in fundraising activities or accept voluntary donations to fund field trips and other academic enrichment activities. But what they cannot do is promote an inequitable two-tier system that provides enhanced opportunities for those who can afford them and lesser ones for those who can’t.
Here's a look at just some of the state decisions that span almost four decades in favor of public education that is FREE and equally available to ALL:
1981: RIDE opinion affirming that school districts cannot charge students a fee for participation in extracurricular activities
1999: RIDE memo reaffirming the prohibition on charging students a fee for participation in extracurricular activities
2001: Commissioner of Education ruling barring school districts from charging students a fee for taking AP exams
2009: RIDE opinion reaffirming the prohibition on charging students a fee for participation in school sports activities
2016: R.I. Superior Court decision barring school districts from charging students a fee to attend summer school
2019: RIDE guidance document affirming that schools cannot charge students for school-sponsored field trips