Supreme Court work-around on religious school tuition introduced in Senate

Makin decision prohibited excluding tuition payments to religious schools

By Guy Page and Timothy Page

The Vermont Senate has introduced its long-promised work-around of a U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring towns with no high schools to provide tuition to approved, independent religious schools. 

S66 would require school districts with no high schools to designate up to three schools to choose from – either public or an approved independent schools. 

However, the bill also would dramatically redefine what constitutes an approved independent school. Without mentioning the religious nature (if any) of the school, the bill requires independent schools “eligible for designation” meet at least three of the four requirements:

  1. The recognized independent school serves as a regional CTE center [tech school] as defined in section 1522 of this title.
  2. The recognized independent school was established through the granting of a charter by the Vermont General Assembly.
  3. The recognized independent school qualified as a public school under the definition of “public school” in effect on June 30, 1991.
  4. 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.

The crafters of S66 appear to have identified the unique origins and hiring practices of religious schools (such as Rice Memorial High School, a Catholic parochial school in South Burlington) and written the new requirements accordingly – without explicitly mentioning religion or any conflict with LGBTQ-related hiring and curriculum that, among other issues, senators last year said they found objectionable about paying public tuition to these schools.

Most religious schools were founded because state schools were deemed incompatible with religious values and practices, and thus have no charter from the General Assembly. Also, most religious schools do not follow union-based hiring and compensation applying to public school teachers.

The sponsors are:

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. 

If S66 becomes law, it could face a legal challenge due to it being an attempted ‘workaround’ of the Makin decision prohibiting unlawful discrimination. 

Senators last session repeatedly said they were frustrated in their efforts to find an acceptable legal solution to requiring tuition payments to parochial schools. They promised a bill would be introduced this year. 

All bills introduced into the 2023-24 session to date. Current through February 7, 2023. For more information see http://www.legislature.vermont.gov

Bill #IntroducedTitleLead SponsorSponsor partyCommittee
S.662/7/2023New requirements for tuition to independent schoolsHardyDemocratEducation
S.652/7/2023Insurance to cover epinephrine auto-injectorsVyhovsky/ LyonsDem./ Prog.Finance
S.642/7/2023Regulates loud exhaust, idling, child restraints. Bike lanes requiredWhiteDemocratTransportation
S.632/7/2023Medicaid cover three rounds of in-vitro fertilizationHardyDemocratFinance
S.622/7/2023Provides personal leave due domestic and sexual violenceRam HinsdaleDemocratEconomic Development
S.612/7/2023Expands the income eligibility for Medicare Savings ProgramsCummingsDemocratHealth & Welfare
S.602/7/2023Authorizes municipal adoption of local option taxesChittenden/ Ram HinsdaleDemocratFinance
S.592/3/2023Replaces State-owned heating systemsPerchlikDem./ Prog.Institutions
S.582/2/2023Increasing the penalties for repeat drug traffickingSearsDemocratJudiciary
S.572/2/2023Allows towns and cities to regulate (but not prohibit) firearm useClarksonDemocratGovernment Operations
S.562/1/2023Public preschool and other childcare, education changesLyons/ HardyDemocratHealth & Welfare
S.552/1/2023Allows public bodies to meet onlineClarksonDemocratGovernment Operations
S.542/1/2023Maintains separation of insurance markets in VT Health ConnectCummingsDemocratFinance
S.532/1/2023Creates a Vermont Climate Corps work programRam HinsdaleDemocratEconomic Development
S.521/31/2023Ensures State health insurance eligibility regardless immigration statusHardyDemocratHealth & Welfare
S.511/31/2023Amends authority to investigate claims of abuse of vulnerable adultsLyonsDemocratHealth & Welfare
S.501/31/2023Protects patient access to, payment for health careCummingsDemocratFinance
S.491/31/2023Enhances genetic and consumer health information privacyLyonsDemocratEconomic Development
S.481/31/2023Regulating sale of catalytic convertersChittendenDemocratEconomic Development
S.471/27/2023Transport of individuals to psychiatric careLyons/ SearsDemocratHealth & Welfare
S.461/27/2023Ensure rights to independent auto repairGulickDemocratEconomic Development
S.451/27/2023Establishes elective income tax on pass-through businessesChittendenDem./ Rep.Finance
S.441/27/2023Manufacturers pay for household hazardous products collectionBrayDemocratNatural Resources
S.431/26/2023Legal representation in the child protection systemRam HinsdaleDemocratJudiciary
S.421/26/2023Prohibits State retirement systems from investing in fossil fuelsRam HinsdaleDemocratGovernment Operations
S.411/26/2023Eliminates life without paroleRam HinsdaleDemocratJudiciary
S.401/26/2023Regulates firearm usage, storage, and purchaseClarkson/ HardyDemocratJudiciary
S.391/26/2023Legislators’ pay and benefitsClarkson/ HardyDemocratGovernment Operations
S.381/26/2023Municipal planning permitsMcCormackDemocratNatural Resources
S.371/25/2023Access to abortion and gender-reassignmentLyons/ Hardy/ Clarkson/ Ram HinsdaleDemocratHealth & Welfare
S.361/25/2023Permits arrest without a warrantSears/ LyonsDemocratJudiciary
S.351/25/2023Hartford’s infrastructure financingWhiteDemocratFinance
S.341/25/2023Kindergarten enrollment ageChittendenDemocratEducation
S.331/25/2023Miscellaneous judiciary proceduresSearsDemocratJudiciary
S.321/25/2023Ranked-choice voting for presidential primary electionsRam Hinsdale/ HardyDemocratGovernment Operations
S.311/24/2023Open carry and self-defense with firearmsRam HinsdaleDemocratJudiciary
S.301/24/2023Sister State ProgramHardyDemocratEconomic Development
S.291/24/2023Military protection ordersRam HinsdaleDemocratJudiciary
S.281/24/2023Restrict litigation against abuse survivorsWhiteDemocratJudiciary
S.271/24/2023Reducing usage of cash bailsRam HinsdaleDemocratJudiciary
S.261/20/2023Removing residency requirement from assisted suicideLyonsDemocratHealth & Welfare
S.251/20/2023Banning certain harmful chemicals from cosmetic, health productsLyonsDemocratHealth & Welfare
S.241/19/2023Implementing the Clean Fuels ProgramWhiteDemocratNatural Resources
S.231/19/2023Prohibiting certain forms of discriminationHardyDemocratEconomic Development
S.221/18/2023Posting of land, hunting/ fishingPerchlikDem./ Prog.Natural Resources
S.211/18/2023Safety zonesPerchlikDem./ Prog.Natural Resources
S.201/18/2023Basic Needs Budget and minimum wage calculationRam HinsdaleDemocratEconomic Development
S.191/18/2023Tobacco prohibitionsRam Hinsdale/ LyonsDemocratEconomic Development
S.181/18/2023Flavored-tobacco banLyonsDemocratEconomic Development
S.171/17/2023Sheriff reformsSears/ HardyDemocratJudicial
S.161/12/2023Exceptions for clergySearsDemocratJudicial
S.151/12/2023Presumptive probationSearsDemocratJudicial
S.141/12/2023Justice expendature reportingSearsDemocratJudicial
S.131/11/2023Referral of cases to community justice centersHashimDemocratJudicial
S.121/11/2023Union electionsRam HinsdaleDemocratEconomic Development
S.111/10/2023Persons prohibited from firearmsBaruthDemocratJudicial
S.101/10/2023Water filling stations in schoolsChittendenDemocratEducation
S.91/10/2023State Auditor examining State contractor recordsBrayDemocratGovernment Operations
S.81/6/2023Counsel for the legally insaneHashimDemocratJudiciary
S.71/6/2023Public defender expanded accessHashimDemocratJudiciary
S.61/6/2023Police interrogation of juvenilesSearsDemocratJudiciary
S.51/6/2023Affordable Heat Act mandateBrayDemocratNatural Resources
S.41/6/2023Violent crime reduction for juveniles through gun controlSearsDemocratJudiciary
S.31/6/2023Prohibits paramilitary training campsBaruthDemocratJudiciary
S.21/6/2023Payment, case management for developmental disability servicesLyonsDemocratHealth & Welfare
S.11/6/2023Act 250 and aircraft hangarsSearsDemocratNatural Resources

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16 replies »

  1. So sad that our leftist woke legislature that promotes killing the unborn despises religion so much that they would go to extreme lengths to prevent parents obtaining financial assistance to send their children to a religious school. Can only imagine the amount of time and effort they’ve put into crafting the proposed work around. Truly evil.

    • They want to groom your kids with race & gender communism. It’s as simple as that.

    • My daughter was getting bullied relentlessly in public school. I sacrificed everything I could to get her into Mid-Vermont Christian School. Fortunately, at the time we received a half-scholarship based on income as I was a struggling single mom. It would be an amazing thing for schools today to be able to compete against the ‘woke’ public schools.

  2. The VT Legislature should be working half as hard to DEFEND their constituents Constitutional rights rather than seeking convoluted ways to overturn them.

  3. S. 66 –

    Here it comes….. Even the Bill # looks ominous. S. 66 proposes to add restrictions to independent schools that offend the 1st Amendment prohibition clause, it repeals the provisions in 16 VSA par. 822(c) and take away the authority of a local school board to determine which education program a student can attend with public funding, a provision that has served Vermont families well for more than 100 years.

    These are the people who are spending more to educate a first grader than it costs to send an undergraduate student to Castleton State University for a year – including room and board… while only 40% of these public-school students meet grade level standards.

    No wonder they want to prohibit a parents right to choose. This isn’t an end-run. It’s in-your-face tyranny. And I’m afraid it can’t be stopped given the current super-majority in the legislature.

    “Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’”
    Luke 23: 28-29

  4. The Vermont NEA and Vermont public school administrators have spoken loudly: “Thou shall not allocate citizen tax dollars to (1) non-union, religious schools and (2) any educational institutions that do not teach the fundamentals of what we, the VT NEA and Vermont public school administrators, declare to be acceptable values and beliefs”.

    Diversity and inclusion in Vermont applies only to those individuals and institutions that live by the values and beliefs of the self-proclaimed intellectual elite in the great State of Vermont.

    • 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!

      • I met an Amish woman who lived thru that – said PA sent 10 of their men to jail before it was all over. It may come to that.

  5. Maybe one day we’ll have a governor like Sarah Huckabee Sanders and a House & Senate with some sanity. Please keep them all in your prayers for wisdom.

  6. doing everything they can to limit competition to public schools that everyone knows do a poor job of educating students. mostly because education is no longer their priority

  7. Whatever school a parent thinks is best for their child should get the allotted amount sent to whichever school their child attends. Some children are better at academics ,some technical, some drama. This is just common sense and best for the student, why fight it? Be grateful you are getting money from those without children.

  8. Once again, the NEA and the Democratic Party place the interests of the union and public education institutions ahead of the interests of students. No two children are the same. No single program of education will meet the needs of every student. The only system of education that enables every student to succeed is one that supports a diversity of learning environments and allows parents to choose the school that best meets the needs of each individual child. And S.66 was written to deny this opportunity to low and middle income families.

  9. I shudder when I reflect that God is just and His wrath will not be forever witheld…

  10. This isn’t about money. It has long been accepted that subsidizing students to attend parochial schools can actually save money in the long run. This is about authoritarian, Left fascist, suppression.

  11. The US Supreme court sets forth the ruling based on the US Constitution – the law of the land. When the highest court in the land is no longer relevant by means of circumvention by renegade State lawmakers, we no longer have a Republic and the people no longer have any protection or rights under the law.

  12. You probably have noticed that every crazy bill/new law that’s dreamed up by our legislative body is always sponsored by Democrats and Progressives – who comprise 2/3 of our lawmakers. How far our “once-independent” little state has fallen.