By Rob Roper
As the Vermont Legislature gears up for lawmaking in 2023, a big issue in the education arena is what to do about Vermont’s 150-year-old school choice system known as “tuitioning” following the Carson v. Makin U.S. Supreme Court decision. Makin ruled that if a state offers a school choice program, as Vermont does, it cannot discriminate against religious schools from participating in the program.
Rather than allow Vermont’s 14 approved independent religious schools to accept tuitioning students, many legislators would rather scrap tuitioning to independent schools altogether. It appears these lawmakers have an ally in the American Civil Liberties Union.
Falko Schilling of the Vermont ACLU briefed the House Education Committee on his organization’s position on Vermont School Choice stating that there are two options: Limit the use of public dollars to public schools, eliminating any independent school from receiving tuitioning dollars. This Schilling describes as the simplest and “most straight forward option that exists.” Or passing a law that would mandate school districts “designate” which independent school a student could attend, taking the choice away from parents and thus severely limiting the number of independent schools that would be able to receive tuitioning students, religious or not.
There is, of course, a third option available to Vermont legislators: allow parents in tuitioning towns to continue choose the best educational option for their family, even if that choice happens to be a religious school. But, at this point, it’s not one they appear to be entertaining.
Rob Roper is a freelance writer covering Vermont education issues for EdWatch Vermont.