School choice suit filed against Vermont

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(Host) A Washington-based education organization announced Thursday that its filing a lawsuit against the state of Vermont. The suit claims the state is discriminating against families who want to use public tax dollars to send their children to religious schools.

The Institute for Justice says Vermont provides an excellent test case because there’s a system in place that allows towns that don’t have a high school to tuition their students to other communities. In these cases, students can use their block grant at other public or private schools, but not at religious schools. This system has been upheld by the Vermont Supreme Court.

Institute senior attorney Richard Komer says a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed the use of school vouchers for religious schools in Cleveland demonstrates that Vermont’s system is unfair:

(Komer) “Our position is that as long as you allow the selection of private schools, you cannot draw a line on the basis of religion in defining which schools parents can select. That discriminates against religion and violates a variety of provisions.”

(Host) Bill Reedy is the chief legal counsel for the Vermont Department of Education:

(Reedy) “It’s my understanding that they have been announcing for a few months now that they were going to bring an action against the state of Vermont because of the system of paying tuition to independent schools. Obviously we’ll be reviewing this with the Attorney General’s office to make the appropriate response in the appropriate judicial forum.”

(Host) The lawsuit has been filed in federal court in Burlington and other parties are expected to file motions with the court.

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