By Guy Page
A House Education Committee bill passed Friday that would require Vermont’s private high schools receiving public tuition funds to offer open enrollment – including special education students – has hit a nerve among lawmakers and residents, especially in the Northeast Kingdom.
The bill – an apparent response by the state’s education establishment to a U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring public school tuition for religious schools – would force all private schools, both religious and secular, to conduct open enrollment, accept all students, and abide by pro-LGBTQ accommodations now in state law. Open enrollment and special education are both costly measures, but the bill does not offer additional funding.
The bill is particularly of concern to parents in Essex County who now rely on private Lyndon Institute and St. Johnsbury Academy as their towns’ high school, said Rep. Terri Williams, the House lawmaker representing Essex County towns who is also a member of the education committee.
Gov. Scott was asked by VDC for his take on the controversial committee bill: “Governor, Critics of the Education Committee bill regulating private schools say it punishes rural towns that rely on private schools by requiring open enrollment. What do you think of this bill?”
In an oblique manner, Scott expressed support for private schools, but did not address the controversial specifics of the bill.
“I’ve been a proponent of independent schools,” Scott said. “Individual pivate entities are an essential part of learning in VT and have had a role for decades. I think there is room for both.”
Spoke at all-male club – Gov. Scott also defended his decision to speak at an all-male club in Massachusetts. When asked by VTDigger reporter Sarah Mearhoff if it was ‘kosher’ to address the Clover Club, Scott responded that he was there by invitation from a Vermonter, that the club has had a 130-year history, and that his theme – civility – is something everyone needs to hear.
“Getting that message out to anyone who wants to listen, that’s important,” Scott said.