Vermont’s Town Tuitioning Program was launched in 1869, making it the oldest school choice program. The school voucher program provides educational options for students whose towns do not have public schools. The sending town pays school tuition directly to the “receiving” school, which can be any public or private, non-religious school in or outside Vermont. Learn more about this program’s funding, eligibility, regulations and legal history on this page.
America’s oldest private school choice program
One of three town tuitioning programs nationwide
3,350 FTE students participating (2014–15)
4 percent of students eligible statewide
435 schools participating (2014–15)
Average scholarship value: $13,152 (2014–15)
Value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 77 percent
Many towns may use public dollars to attend any public or approved independent (private), non-religious school in or outside of Vermont. The “tuitioning” towns pay tuition directly to the “receiving” schools. For 2016–17, tuition amounts equal $12,938 for grades K–6 and $14,773 for grades 7–12. Although most tuitioning towns allow parents to choose which schools will receive their students, some towns send all their students to one school.
When students are tuitioned at public schools, the sending town pays the receiving school district an amount equal to the receiving district’s average per-pupil costs, as calculated by the Vermont Agency of Education. When students are tuitioned at private schools, the voucher is worth up to the average announced tuition for Vermont public schools, calculated each year by the state, or the private school’s tuition (whichever is less). That figure is calculated separately for grades K–6, 7–8 and 9–12.
Students must live in Vermont and reside in an identified tuition town. Although most tuitioning towns allow parents to choose which schools will receive their students, some towns send all their students to one school.
Vermont’s town tuitioning is very restrictive on eligibility, based on the fact students qualify only if their home district does not have a public school; only about 3 percent of the state’s student population lives in such towns. The program does far better on funding, as each student can receive more than 75 percent of the average state and local revenue per pupil. Also, the program does not place overly burdensome regulations on participating schools. Vermont’s unique school choice program should increase student eligibility. Act 46, which creates a mechanism for school districts to consolidate, is having a negative effect on town tuitioning. When a tuitioning town consolidates with other towns, the right to continue tuitioning students to private schools is forfeited. Act 46 is subject to an active and ongoing debate in the state. Vermont students would be best served by preserving town tuitioning, a method of funding education that has been successful for well more than 100 years.
In 1961, Vermont’s Supreme Court ruled that including religious schools in the Town Tuitioning Program first established in 1869 violated the First Amendment. In 1994, the Vermont Supreme Court overturned this decision, but the Vermont Department of Education refused to allow parents to choose religious schools. In 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court again barred religious schools from participating, this time under the state constitution. Chittenden Town School Dist. v. Dept. of Education, (97-275); 169 Vt. 310; 738 A.2d 539.
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