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 of three town tuitioning programs nationwide
3,627 FTE students participating (2016–17)
4 percent of students eligible statewide
142 schools participating (2016–17)
Average scholarship value: $13,152 (2014–15)
Value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 72 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 2018–19, tuition amounts equal $13,910 for grades K–6 and $15,618 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 and 7–12. For 2019–20, tuition amounts equal $14,263 for grades K–6 and $15,933 for grades 7–12.
Students must live in Vermont and reside in identified tuitioning town (i.e. towns that do not operate a public school at a given grade level range). Although most tuitioning towns allow parents to choose which schools will receive their students, some towns send all their students to one school.
Eligibility for Vermont’s town tuitioning is very restrictive. Students qualify only if their home district does not have a public school; only about 4 percent of the state’s student population live in such towns. The program does far better on funding, as each student can receive about three quarters of the average state and local revenue per pupil. Also, the program does not place overly burdensome regulations on participating schools, although it does forbid participating parents from choosing a school with a religious affiliation. However, 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 and expanding town tuitioning, a method of funding education that has been successful for more than 100 years.
On June 11, 1999, the Supreme Court of Vermont barred religious schools from participating in the state’s town tuitioning program, citing a violation of the Vermont state constitution’s compelled support clause. The nation’s first school choice program, enacted in 1869, has mainly been challenged regarding participation by religious schools. It has been an active school choice program for 150 years, albeit without benefit of religious school participation since 1961. Chittenden Town School Dist. v. Dept. of Education, 738 A.2d 539 (Vt.), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 1066 (1999)
Vermont’s Supreme Court ruled in 1961 that including religious schools in the Town Tuitioning Program first established in 1869 violated the First Amendment Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Swart v. South Burlington Town School District, 167 A.2d 514 (Vt. 1961). In 1994, the Vermont Supreme Court overturned this decision, but the Vermont Department of Education refused to allow parents to choose religious schools. Campbell v. Manchester Board of School Directors, 641 A.2d 352 (Vt. 1994).
Receive Educational Choice Updates Straight to Your Inbox.