Anti-religious school tuition bill could stop ed funding to secular, private schools

Students at the Thaddeus Stevens School in East Burke

By Guy Page

A bill meant to prevent public tuition going to religious schools also would stop state education funding for many small, secular private schools, the Caledonian-Record reports. 

Both the East Burke School – a small local private high school now supported by public school tuition – and the K-8 independent Thaddeus Stevens School in East Burke would suffer significant financial losses if the law passes as introduced Feb. 7. 

S66 redefines independent school eligibility for tuition funding, in an apparent work-around of the U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring towns without high schools pay tuition without discriminating against religious schools. The bill doesn’t reference religion or hot-button social issues, but instead requires independent schools “eligible for designation” meet at least three of the four requirements:

  • The recognized independent school serves as a regional CTE center [tech school] as defined in section 1522 of this title.
  • The recognized independent school was established through the granting of a charter by the Vermont General Assembly.
  • The recognized independent school qualified as a public school under the definition of “public school” in effect on June 30, 1991.
  • The recognized independent school is designated under state law as an employer of teachers as defined by law covering the State Teachers’ Retirement System of Vermont.

“Tuition to local independent high schools Lyndon Institute and St. Johnsbury Academy may be safe based on the criteria,” longtime editor Dana Gray writes in the February 9 online edition of the daily newspaper for the Northeast Kingdom and northwestern counties in New Hampshire. “The same cannot be said for other local independent schools.”

“Our school doesn’t meet any of those. I don’t know any of the small independents that do,” Thaddeus Stevens School Director Julie Hansen told the CR. For example, many small private schools don’t require teacher certification – a condition under the fourth criteria. Also, few private schools were “established through the granting of a charter by the Vermont General Assembly.” 

At present, school districts that lack their own high schools may now, at the parents’ request, tuition students to parochial and other religious schools. This recent development followed a U.S. Supreme Court decision of Carson V. Makin and a subsequent legal settlement with the State of Vermont, negotiated on behalf of parents by the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Before the U.S. Supreme Court decision, the tuition program was available to districts without a public high school, helping high schoolers to attend a private school – a secular one – of their choice. High school students in Maine fell under a similar program that was also excluding religious schools until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Makin that the state was unlawfully discriminating against them.

S66 is in the Senate Education Committee. It is not on the committee agenda for discussion this week.

Categories: Legislation

33 replies »

  1. No matter. As long as it doesn’t allow tuition payments to go to religious schools our leftist legislators will be happy; just collateral damage.

  2. So it would appear that VT is going the way of communist, NY gov. Hochul. What,? We made a law that is against the rules ( the Constitution, you know the rules for the government and how to do their job)?
    How dare you say so. We will make a law to make sure We get what WE want . Just like keeping blacks ignorant during slavery, that the poor or those who believe in GOD are left ignorant of their position that They have put them in, namely being poor and now stupid. Thanks for that. I feel so special.

  3. The progressives in this state are Communists. Communists reject religion and capitalism, as they see man as God with the ability to envision a new world and create it, while capitalism is unsustainable, as it perpetuates the need for more and more consumer goods. So every time one of these Communists use you the word sustainable equate with Communism.

  4. The US Constitution emphasizes the separation of church and state. There is nothing in it that allows for government to treat them inequitably.

  5. Vermont Senate Bill S. 66 – Two Wolves and a Lamb

    Re: True North Reports recently published a commentary by Stan Greer, senior research associate for the National Institute for Labor Relations Research. To quote McCormick again, if this chronic failure of America’s Big Labor-dominated government schools “isn’t an indictment of the system, and this isn’t enough to wake people up, we’re in trouble.”

    Make no mistake. Some of us, here in Vermont at least, are in big trouble.

    Senate Bill S.66 is a tyrannical attack on all parents and local school boards. It seeks to regulate independent schools and force them to operate under the same failed governance in which Vermont’s monopoly schools operate.

    S. 66 also repeals Title 16: Education, Chapter 021: Maintenance Of Public Schools § 822. School district to maintain public high schools or pay tuition.

    This is governance that has served Vermonters well for more than 100 years and reads as follows.

    (c)(1) A school district may both maintain a high school and furnish high school education by paying tuition:

    (A) to a public school as in the judgment of the school board may best serve the interests of the students; or

    (B) to an approved independent school or an independent school meeting education quality standards if the school board judges that a student has unique educational needs that cannot be served within the district or at a nearby public school.

    (2) The judgment of the board shall be final in regard to the institution the students may attend at public cost.

    Never mind that Vermonters in my school district are paying as much today to educate a first grader as it costs to send a student to Castleton State University for a full year of undergraduate studies – INCLUDING room and board. Never mind that, on average, only 40% of Vermont’s public-school students meet grade level standards. And never mind parental disagreements over curricula.

    S. 66 seeks only to strengthen the grip of Vermont’s failed public-school monopoly.

    The legislature, funded by the special interest groups profiting from the monopolized control of tax-dollars, is nothing short of corrupt. It exemplifies the proverbial metaphor of ‘two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch’, and freedom-loving Vermonters are the main course. With the wolves in a super-majority in the statehouse, the only recourse is to ‘get out of Dodge’ – be that getting your kids out of the public schools (if you can afford to do so) or moving to a State that still respects the U.S. Constitution.

    • And never mind that Vermont school officials say students’ mental health is at ‘a breaking point’….


      The public school cartel is, by its own admission, dangerous for Vermont students. Not only can these schools vaccinate children without notifying their parents, it’s little wonder then that Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union Superintendent Lynn Cota, says: “There comes a point — a breaking point — where things start to break. And I think that we are dangerously close to a breaking point with all that we’re trying to hold in public education.”

      “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.” Luke 23:28

    • No one has proposed outlawing religious schools. I, for one, don’t want my tax dollars funding religious indoctrination. Do it on your own dime.

      • If someone wants to use a publicly funded school choice voucher to attend a religious school, when the money is disbursed it is no longer ‘public’. It’s their money. And certainly not yours.

        O’Connor’s concurring SCOTUS opinion in the Cleveland School Choice case, Zelman v. Simmons-Harris reiterated the following.

        “The incidental advancement of a religious mission, or the perceived endorsement of a religious message, is reasonably attributable to the individual recipient, not to the government, whose role ends with the disbursement of benefits.”

        After all, I can ask that my tax dollars not go to a corrupt public-school system. But I don’t. I respect the choice of individuals.

  6. Just another way to make sure parents don’t have an option other then public schools, control is all this is about.

  7. Now if only we could parade around with “Defund the Schools signs.” But even that would look scary to them.

    And logically, if kids leave the public K-12, an equal part percentage of school funding ought to follow them… kinda like Obamacare.

  8. I moved to VT almost 30 years ago. In that time, they have actually matched NYC streets where there’s more pot holes than paved road; definitely catching up to CA where “some people still have the outdated notion their children are their own”; has surpassed CT where one’s real estate taxes are (monthly) equal to if not more than one’s monthly mortgage.

    Now let me tell you the quiet part out loud. Are you aware that the state of VT has had a list-a SECRET list? It is so that people can be reported (by a person of “authority”) for abusing a child. There are no charges. No warrants. No hearings. No announcement to the Reported Person that such steps were taken. They find out by suddenly, without warning, they are called into the boss’s office and fired. The boss was notified that you were put on this list. Getting a job after that is almost impossible. Lower middle class and poor are usually targeted b/c they are the demographic that usually can’t afford a lawyer. Easy target. And they lose their child.

    So why am I bringing this up? If they are so in-your-face with this education “law” that the Supreme Court already said NOOOOO to, what are the chances they will go after YOUR kids if you express objections to their plans????

    It’s time to WAKE UP VERMONT!!!! We are one of the most dictated states in the Union. But I believe VT is the worst. Everything they do is stealthy. Everything is DECISIONS BY THE RULERS. When was the last time they did something we clearly stated WE WANT??? WE-THE-PEOPLE.

    WAKE UP.

  9. S22; 2023 This bill is concerned with public tax funds going to religious and other unapproved schools…that is, schools not control or regulated by the government. It is to be expected and appropriate that such concern about the dispensing of “public” monies would arise. How it’s spent, where and to whose benefit are the “accountability” we ask of legislation and regulation…RIGHT? This appears to be a clear argument for why the education and accountability for schooling services should not be a government business…it should return to parent. How’d we come to the idea that we need this huge government business? Do we believe that parents are responsible for rising/educating their kids? Do families need the government to be their middle man for schooling? Couldn’t we return control to families? The educational proportion of tax monies collected could skip over the government tax pool and go directly to a fund owned by families. The government could be relieved of the burden of managing the massive schooling conglomerate and the attendant difficulties of how/where to spend the monies. The government would hold the fund for families and dispense it to families’. Couldn’t families contract directly for whatever schooling and instructional services they want?

    • Re: wishing someone would take the time.

      The notorious Catch 22. This is the basis of all of those Zombie movies that are so popular today.

      The point is that some of your neighbors, those who are teaching your children, either won’t or can’t figure out a way to lower education costs. And when someone else figures out how to do it, how to improve academic performance, and ensure the mental health and stability of your children (it’s not rocket science, after all), they become a threat to your neighbor’s very existence. You are no longer a meal-ticket but the enemy… literally. You are a ‘domestic terrorist’.

      Long story short – this is all about free market economics and individualism vs. the collective and Marxism (the governance of cowards). It is a tyranny by the majority. As I often reference, C. S. Lewis explained it as well as anyone.

      “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

  10. This a good excuse to overhaul education. There’s only the same number of students you would have at say UF or FSU. This would be a perfect opportunity to undue the damage. The government in Florida is tearing down the radical DEI bureaucracy policies. We can do the same easily for elementary and high schools 🏫 in Vermont.

    • It’s not ‘easy’. In fact, it’s impossible. Because, in Vermont, the majority of workers are employed by this bureaucracy, they form an insurmountable voting bloc, and they’ve elected a super-majority in the Vermont Statehouse. They are changing our laws to ensure their control.

      This is truly an Orwellian scenario. Literally, in our education system, 2+2=5. The Agency of Education, through its ‘equalized student enrollment’ calculations used to distribute tax dollars, says 2 students plus two students equal five students.

      You have two choices. Move to a place like Florida or, well (pun intended)….. that’s another topic entirely.

  11. I’m curious about how the Amish here in the NEK are handling the education of their children; anyone know? Because I’m pretty sure that any Amish I’m aware of in other states basically don’t take any state or federal funding and just “self pay “ as a community for their children’s education. Perhaps it’s time to return to this model for the non Amish children who come from homes where parents don’t want them indoctrinated in our public schools where they don’t learn math but they do learn that all white people are evil and all about the sexual orientation and confusion of their teachers. Perhaps we’re fighting a losing battle in this state and we are better off just opting out of the system altogether? Because you must know that any state payment to a private school is going to result in a loss of control for that school as the state tries to determine what is taught and who gets to teach it.

    • Coincidentally, I was born and raised in Lancaster County, PA. My family was (and some still are) Mennonites, who immigrated from Switzerland in the early 1700s. The Amish are an off shoot from the Mennonite church. And I’m very familiar with the educational controversies concerning the Amish over the last 80 years or so.

      If you want to read about it, I recommend this article by Erika Riley.

      And the wording in the web link is correct. In 1972, the SCOTUS held that state laws requiring children to attend school until they are 16 violate the constitutional rights of the Amish to free exercise of religion.

      Yep! You read that correctly. This is why I’m so adamantly against what the Vermont legislature and the cronies in our Agency of Education and education special interest cartels are doing. They are lawless. And, as Orwell warned… “All tyrannies rule through fraud and force, but once the fraud is exposed, they must rely exclusively on force.”

      Welcome to Vermont!

      • @ H Jay

        Yes that was an interesting article. I think perhaps it’s time for Vermonters to decide what they want for their children and take action. I don’t see it getting any better with our current legislature. The only way to be able to decide what your children are taught is to remove them (and you) from the system as much as possible. Religious schools that take federal or state funds are still ultimately beholden to the dictates of the government.

      • School Choice is the only education system that can satisfy everyone’s educational sensibilities. The problem is that ‘education’ is not the driving force behind those who would deny those choices. Control of taxpayer money is their only motivation. Period.

        How many times, for example, do we hear that School Choice takes money away from the public schools?

        Well, yes. School Choice will take money from the public schools, as long as the public schools provide a failing and harmful service. Failing academic performance. Exorbitantly high costs. Deteriorating discipline and mental health.

        “They don’t mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.” – T. S. Eliot

        …or, they are corrupt and no better than bullies, thieves and tyrants.

  12. S66 should never come up for discussion at the states house. EVERYONE knows that federal law is preemptive over state law.

    • But why should anyone care? The federal government completely violates its own federal law for years & NOTHING gets done. Our international border is wide open. Why should the tiny, insignificant state of VT with money flowing in from people such as George Soros NOT disregard the US Supreme Court decisions or federal law?

      I trust the Catholic Church to fight this if no one else – even THEY, thankfully, as it turns out, have more money than Soros does.

      But this is their game…law already in effect? Decision already made by the Supreme Court? Challenges all exhausted? Ignore the law, then. Biden showed them well.

  13. The bills presented by the Vermont legislature over the last decades have either been so poorly worded or simply plagiarized from others.
    How ironic that their most focused effort in decades has been on a bill TARGETING Christians.

    • S. 66 targets any and all religions, Brian. But you are correct in that the legislative methodology is, at best, incompetent. The term ‘religious school’ or ‘religious instruction’ is never clearly defined. Again, it is reminiscent of classic Orwellian dystopian ‘double-speak’.

      The problem is that both sides of the political aisle accuse the other side of being Orwellian. Both sides accuse the other of psychological projection – attributing one’s own unacceptable character traits on to another.

      The profound difference between the various factions is that while both sides accept the dichotomy as typical human nature, one side proposes a live-and-let-live social construct. But the other side, those currently in the majority of our legislature, for example, believe the social construct should be one of extrinsic uniformity, one-size-fits-all – the ‘equity’ of equal outcomes (e.g., everyone gets a trophy, so no one feels badly about their personal predicament – whatever it happens to be), as opposed to the intrinsic diversity of individual autonomy.

      As a free-market individualist, I can’t speak to the methodology or mindset of ‘the other side’. Again, their precepts are all too often poorly expressed, undefined, and intractable – I suspect by design, in order that they avoid being held individually responsible for their actions. Whereas those of us on the ‘other side’ embrace personal accountability. One thing is certain, however. Everyone acts in their own self-interest, whether or not they admit it.

      Both sides claim the high ground of ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’. But only one side attempts to coexist with the other. Milton Friedman explained it as follows.

      “The great virtue of a free-market system is that it does not care what color people are; it does not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy. It is the most effective system we have discovered to enable people who hate one another to deal with one another and help one another.”

      The question is: How do we explain this to our neighbors when they won’t engage in the discussion?

  14. You can’t fool Mother Nature. And you can’t fool the market (i.e., the people) either. At least not for long.

    “Seattle Public Schools consider closures as student enrollment plunges – ”

    “The declining enrollment comes after homeschooling rates nearly doubled…”

    “Student enrollment has dropped to roughly 50,000 students from nearly 54,000 in the 2019-2020 school year. In a best-case scenario, school administrators expect 49,000 students by 2032, and in a worst-case scenario, enrollment may be as low as 43,000.”

    “I really think that what Seattle’s seeing, where those students have gone are either to private schools or they’ve left the school district and have moved elsewhere…”

    Vermont’s progressive legislature should take note. In the final analysis, failure breeds failure. And not only will the education special interest groups be the last one’s left holding the bag, they won’t have anyone but themselves to blame for their failures.

    Think about it. Vermont, as an entire State, has only twice as many public school students as Seattle, WA. Both districts are similarly progressive. And the folks in Seattle are just beginning to see the effects of their dystopia. Vermont enrollments, after all, have declined from a peak of over 100,000 to around 75,000 today.

    The writing is on the blackboard. But, apparently, no one knows how to read it.

  15. I wonder if this will apply equally to, say, the Tamim Academy in Burlington, given the ambiguous language. It’s clear the commenters here all realize they intend this as a tactic to be used against Christians, but they just can’t explicitly say it. There is a genocide happening against the people of VT.

    • It’s a mistake to think this is an attack against Christians. They are but collateral damage. Anyone who gets in their way will be confronted. Their motive is to control the single largest cashflow stream in the State. It’s all about money.

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