Vermont’s religious schools now included in town tuitioning school choice

This article by Chris Woodword is republished from American Family News.

It took years of legal fights, and a related ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, but parties in Vermont have settled two cases involving school tuition and religious discrimination.

Going back two decades, religious families in Vermont have witnessed their state government offer a tuition program that excluded parochial schools. This week, five families and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, which sued to end the discrimination, watched the Vermont Agency of Education and local school districts agree to a settlement.

Alliance Defending Freedom represented the families and the diocese between two lawsuits, A.H. v French and E.W. v French, that were filed in September of 2020.

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Going back two decades, religious families in Vermont have witnessed their state government offer a tuition program that excluded parochial schools.

ADF attorney Paul Schmitt says the settlement states Vermont’s religious schools are longer be excluded from what is known as the Town Tuition Program that aids high school students.

“That basically ends what has been three years of litigation,” Schmitt tells AFN, “over equal access to programs in Vermont, including tuition for students who choose to attend religious schools.”

The tuition program is available in rural areas without a public high school, helping high schoolers to attend a private school – a secular one – of their choice. If that situation sounds familiar, high school students in Maine fell under a similar program that was also excluding religious schools until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June the state was unlawfully discriminating against them. The high court ruled 6-3 in the case known as Carson v. Makin.

According to ADF, the June ruling helped push Vermont’s school officials to acknowledge their tuition program is unconstitutional. A state letter to school districts cited Carson and instructed them they cannot deny tuition payments to religious schools that meet state standards.

Schmitt says one of the terms of the settlement is the families will be reimbursed for their out-of-pocket expenses for school tuition.

“If there are families out there in Vermont, who requested tuition from their school district and they were denied, they should renew that request for reimbursement now to try to recover some of that tuition,” the ADF attorney advises.

ADF credited Vermont attorney Thomas McCormick for serving as local counsel in the ADF lawsuit.

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4 thoughts on “Vermont’s religious schools now included in town tuitioning school choice

  1. Re: “Schmitt says one of the terms of the settlement is the families will be reimbursed for their out-of-pocket expenses for school tuition.”

    One of the most important points in this settlement is that the AOE recognized the degree of its malfeasance when State officials agreed to pay $95,000 for the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees. This sets a profound precedent. Parents who feel aggrieved by their school district’s unwillingness to provide tuitioning where it’s authorized, no longer have to worry that fighting ‘city hall’ is going to cost them an arm and a leg in legal fees.

  2. So you pay school taxes, and you do not want your children to be indoctrinated by the
    feckless public school system, your tax dollars should be allowed to fund wherever you
    deem your child should get educated.

    The Separation of church and state had nothing to do with schools, wake up people
    they only have an agenda, remember we have ” In God We Trust ” on our money !!

  3. Well, it’s about time. Because of the inadequacies,(and that’s putting it nicely) of the public school system, we sent our children to a small private Christian school. Our children got a first rate education for a fraction of what it cost to send a child to public school. We paid that amount but received no reimbursement on the education tax we are required to pay. Even though our town offered school choice, the Christian school did not qualify, because of the ridiculous “separation of church and state” reason that was given by the school board and the state. We could never understand how intelligent people could so misinterpret a statement in a letter by Mr. Jefferson and make it law, when the purpose of his statement was to keep the government out of church, not the church out of government.

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