Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze & Observer 11-27-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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SMITHFIELD SCITUATE FOSTER GLOCESTER EDITION | NOVEMBER 27-DECEMBER 4, 2019 LETTERS 11 Thank you to East Smithfield Public Library I would like to take a minute to say thank you to the East Smithfield Public Library and the Friends of the Library group for providing free yoga classes the past few months for the patrons. The instructors for the classes were all from The Barre and Yoga studio of Smithfield and were excellent in individualizing the sessions for the skill level of each person. Our com- munity is very fortunate to have a local library that offers so much to the people of Smithfield; from the yoga classes, craft nights, game night, and the knitting group to the many children's programs and activities, the library really brings people together and supports our community. LYNNE POSKUS Smithfield Field trip policy reiterates right to free and equal public education There has been a lot of hand-wring- ing among R.I. school officials over an advisory opinion issued in April by former education commissioner Ken Wagner. The advisory reminded school districts that they may not legally require families to pay for field trips undertaken on school time and with school staff or resources. We want to set the record straight: Wagner's advisory does nothing more than reiterate a basic principle under- lying the right to a free and equal public education. It has been longstanding policy and law in R.I. that schools may not charge students for programs and ser- vices lest they discriminate between those who can and cannot pay. This commitment to equity in public edu- cation, and a corresponding refusal to allow a two-tier educational system, has been confirmed decade after decade for over a century by state education commissioners, boards of education and at least one court deci- sion. Unfortunately, a misconcep- tion exists that the recent advisory requires canceling field trips and/ or banning donations to fund them. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the advisory opinion makes clear that districts may con- tinue to fund field trips through their annual budget and through fundrais- ing – including donations by parents. The only thing that is prohibited is requiring particular fees or fundrais- ing quotas from students in order to participate in school field trips. Simply put, schools may not leave behind children who cannot pay for a field trip, nor can they put families in the stigmatizing position of seek- ing fee waivers in order to have their child attend. As RIDE noted over a decade ago, "Even a complete waiver of a fee in the case of a poor fam- ily puts that family in the distressing position of having to ask for charity to obtain a public service. Slightly better off families who would not qualify for a complete or partial fee waiver will be forced to choose between needed family expenditures and the payment of school fees." Schools remain free to ask par- ents to make donations toward the cost of a trip, and if they can afford it, parents can continue to do so as if the school's policy had never changed. Commissioner Wagner's advisory merely reaffirms Rhode Island's commitment to equity in our public schools. Taxpayer resources in the form of staff time and school time should not be used to subsi- dize enriching experiences for those who can afford to pay while leaving behind lower-income children – who are frequently in greatest need of such enrichment activities and who are stigmatized by the very act of being left behind. The Johns Hopkins report on the structural inadequacies of the Providence school system demon- strates that many inequities remain in providing education to students in our state. The commissioner's advisory on field trips addresses one small, but important, aspect of this problem, and should be commended, not denounced, if we truly believe in a free and equal public education. VERONIKA KOT Staff attorney at R.I. Legal Services STEVEN BROWN Executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island got a news tip? Call Laura at 401-334-9555, ext. 145 or e-mail it to laura@valleybreeze.com Tabella: DEM and RISPCA have no business jeopardizing Fourth Amendment Imagine the R.I. state veterinarian and the RISPCA demanding to enter your home without a search war- rant and if you denied them access being fined $350 per day until they obtained a search warrant. The legis- lation was House Bill No. 5297 intro- duced in the last General Assembly session that would have taken your Fourth Amendment rights away. Opposing the legislation was the Defenders of Animals, Inc., and the Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union. The R.I. ACLU stat- ed: "We do not believe the General Assembly can give the DEM, much See RISPCA, Page 15 Letters to the Editor Letters to the Editor are welcome from readers. Please: • Limit to 500 words. Longer letters may appear online only. • Letters on local or state topics and issues will take precedence over those on national issues. • No more than one letter per person every 8 weeks, please. • All letters must be signed and include a hometown. Send by e-mail to: news@valleybreeze.com, or mail to The Valley Breeze, 6 Blackstone Valley Place, Suite 204, Lincoln, RI 02865. Creative Pool System, Inc. 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