BREAKING NEWS: Private school tuition House vote postponed until Wednesday, sources say

House leadership unable to corral enough votes?

by Guy Page

Sources at the Vermont State House say the vote on H483, restricting public school tuition to private schools, has been delayed until at least next Wednesday.

It is uncertain why voting on this bill, pushed strongly by a coalition of public school education groups, has been postponed after being placed on the House agenda this week. When bills are pulled from the voting schedule, it’s usually for one of two reasons: 1) House and committee leadership acknowledge there’s more work to be done on the bill, and/or 2) leadership has been counting heads and knows it lacks the votes to successfully pass the bill. Bringing a major bill to a floor vote and then losing on a roll call vote is considered a major, embarrassing blunder by its supporters. Blame is laid at the feet of the legislature’s leaders.

H483 would require all private schools (religious and secular) offer open enrollment, not being allowed to pick and choose among would-be enrollees. Supporters of Vermont’s many private schools receiving public tuition say this will impose a severe financial hardship on institutions that do not receive anywhere near the level of financial support as fully public schools.

The bill also requires all public tuition recipients provide equal access and rights to LGBTQ students and staff, as required for public schools by the state’s public accommodations law. It is unclear whether such a provision would be at odds with recent Supreme Court decisions requiring school districts to pay tuition without discriminating against religious schools.

Passing H483 would cause significant financial hardship to rural communities now relying on private schools as their primary high school. Rep. Terri Williams (R-Granby) recently wrote:

Essex County. 675 square miles. Population – about 5,800. Student population – about twelve hundred. 

Only one high school, Canaan High School, a town that borders New Hampshire to the east, Canada to the north. It is a good little public school with about 100 students. Most of the other high school students go to Lyndon Institute and St Johnsbury Academy, both independent schools. Great schools. And about as close as any for Essex County students to get to. 

Many of their parents work in St. J and Lyndonville, making transportation convenient. Lyndon Institute provides busing for Essex County students who live in Lunenburg and Concord but no further north. St Johnsbury Academy does not provide transportation. Students rely on parents and neighbors to transport them. 

The Education Committee’s independent schools bill does not help either of these high schools meet the unprecedented, strict new standards it seeks to impose. When the new, high bar is not reached, where oh where will Essex County students go then? Are we really ok with gambling with the educational lives of these students? 

If the state of Vermont wants to build a public school right in the middle of Essex County, that would be great. Essex County certainly can’t afford to build one. 

Northeast Kingdom schools have been underfunded for more than 20 years. The Legislature has created a new funding formula that hopefully will fix that. For so many, it is too little too late. 

What we must not do is just load another bale of straw on the already overburdened camel’s back. 

There is much talk about equity in the Legislature. Forced open enrollment of schools already trailing behind wealthier, urban towns in transportation and teacher pay just widens the real-life equity gap. It cannot help but leave the poor towns poorer. 

Already this year, a Senate bill would force my constituents to pay more just to stay warm. Shall we now force my constituents to pay more to send their children to school? 

Camels bite, you know. After listening to my constituents who believe Montpelier is threatening not only their ability to stay warm, but their children’s futures, I assure you, that bite will feel like a little nip in comparison to how the camel will react if this bill passes unchanged. 

For decades paying public school tuition to private schools has been one of the practical, positive, future-thinking features of life in Essex County. I am sure that when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Carson V. Makin, it did not have in mind punishing rural families and private schools. Rather than pass a law that will spend money the state doesn’t have, inflict needless suffering on low-income, rural families, and make the State of Vermont a defendant before a miffed Supreme Court, I hope this bill will be returned to the House Education Committee with directions to craft a truly equitable bill that serves all citizens, and not just the narrow, inequitable interests of the big schools and the public education establishment. 

Categories: Legislation

15 replies »

  1. Is it any wonder why homeschooling is so popular and educators are leaving public achools in droves?

  2. Equity is another word for the lowest common denominator. The sooner this DEI nonsense stops the better. It has become the secular state religion and to my mind unconstitutionally forced on everyone.
    Independent schools have historically focused on merit, and religious schools on the values of their faith, which has led their students to success in life. At the same time public schools spend more, yet tests prove they fail to teach their students the basics. Bringing all schools down to their level is wrong. The bill should go into the trash where it belongs.

    • Hi Cathy! I couldn’t agree more Equity is a form of socialism where all outcomes are make equal. Social Justice is the outcome resulting from Equity, which is equivalent to neo-communism. The United Nations is driving the Equity twords the Social Justice agenda. Equity is a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal.

    • Any social policy that focuses on or rewards merit is out of line with leftist thinking. We must concentrate on childrens’ victimhoods and their ancestries to assign their social stature. Above all, the high-performing white kids from nuclear families must be made to recognize their status as oppressors and to hate themselves…

  3. The public schools are failing badly yet their teachers unions remain very strong. We are ALL judged by our work/products & outcomes, except “educators” who have been exempt for many years and blame all but themselves, I was a machinist before I retired and all our parts & assemblies were were inspected by us & Q/C before shipping, I just wonder how long I’d have been employed if I made 50% scrap? Yet all my life these teachers have argued all they need is more “resources” and “investments” to raise test scores (didn’t work) so now the colleges & universities just ditch the SAT’s and ignore grades? And the solution from out vaunted Legislators? Make it harder on private/religious schools that ARE working? These people are insane.

  4. All GREAT posts on here. And if this potentially illegal bill passes, I hope and pray(!!!) that the Catholic Church for but one entity – sues the HELL (in the figurative and literal sense) out of this State for this attempt at violating our religious freedoms as per the Constitution, as well as engineering a whole lotta B.S. in order to bypass the recent US Supreme Court decision.

  5. While the language in this version of the bill has been softened a bit from S.66.

    Re: “Sec. 4. 16 V.S.A. § 822 is amended to read…”
    Read pages 10 and 11.

    … it is nonetheless a continued attack on individual liberty.

    Caution: This H.483 version still repeals the statutory authority of school boards in deciding when and where a student can attend an independent school with public funding.

    The language makes no reference to the fact that “16 V.S.A. § 822 (2) The judgment of the board shall be final in regard to the institution the students may attend at public cost” remains repealed in this H.483 version and the S.66 version (see pages 5 and 6).

    This is nothing short of the continued deceptive and dishonest presentations that reflect the moral relativism our legislators and appointed officials practice when benefitting themselves at the expense of taxpayers.

    What’s worse…. they know better!

  6. Anyone with any common sense knows why this is happening. For years our colleges have indoctrinated students to shut out political views or other views that don’t align with theirs. Like the lady that was invited to speak at, I believe it was, UVM a few years back and was shouted down and basically assaulted by some of the students. Now we have legislatures who have graduated from many of the same types of colleges coming for independent, private and religious schools to do the same thing using our Principals Association and Teachers Union to do it for them along with basically blackmail if they don’t conform to what they say. Wake up Vermonters if you want to have any say in this state and call them and cut the bull now before it gets worse!

  7. Congress just passed Parents Bill of Rights, now it is onto the Senate. The Senate is missing two key Democrats and one RINO (what is the status of Fetterman, Feinstein and McConnel?) Along with the Supreme Court ruling, the recent Parents Bill of Rights passing the House, the purse strings getting pulled shut by Congress, the Fed bankrupt, the Treasury bleeding out, the Federal landscape is changing bigly for the liberal despots in Montpelier. No federal agency will back them up or come to the rescue with money or favors. The State will be hung out to dry and they know it. They must be coming to that realization and whatever fight they pick now, they are on their own to defend it and pay for it. DC is in chaos, and how DC goes, so goes Vermont. The implosion cannot be avoided now.

  8. The only way this DEI, Equity, CRT, SEL and Portrait of a Graduate nonsense will stop is for enough concerned citizen groups stand together and speak collectively. Prayer would help, too. This is a God sized problem we are facing, so call on Him for help. Lord, knows the State House isn’t doing their jobs in the interests of the people very well. It is time to call on His help, too – individually and in faith groups, too.

    It wasn’t enough that 1000 parent signatures in Milton were ignored by their school board asking an end to the nonsense. It will take many more concerned citizen groups to team together and say enough. Sounds like Essex County should have such a group in each of their communities.

    Honestly there should be one in every town in the state. Will you help stir one? Resources are available to help if you can find some who will reach out. SOS Save Our Schoolchildren on Facebook has some good reasons why citizens/parents should be concerned. Health Children = Strong Vermont has a website with an explanation for most of the terms at the start – you can find it at vthope.net/hcsv.html Write amavt22@yahoo.com for more help for your community.

  9. Democrat Policies —- Ideas so great they have to be mandated!

  10. Maybe if the politicians weren’t so anti-religious, that is what this is all about, they might be able to do something about the really pressing issues facing the state. It also seems that this is another example of insufficient preparation and poor research on their part.

    • Politicians who embrace leftist philosophies are brainwashed to believe that religion is the enemy, or as Karl Marx said: it is “the opium of the masses”. Leftists, like those currently running the state of Vermont want to be your opium.