Education Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Level the playing field for schools

Vermont taxpayers fund Vermont public education. In addition, the taxpayers also fund Vermont’s town tuition program, which helps to educate students who live in towns that do not operate their own public schools. One would assume that taxpayer dollars which are diverted to independent or private schools through the town tuition program would be administered and monitored as those dollars that go directly to public schools — but that has not always been the case, and until recently Vermont had the right to deny funds to certain educational institutions for a variety of reasons.

Consider when someone wants to purchase a home. Most buyers typically look to obtain a mortgage from a lender. The lender sets out a list of requirements and obligations that the borrower must agree to in order to obtain the mortgage. If the buyer does not wish to comply with those requirements, the buyer is free to walk away from the lender and find another way to fund the purchase. Similarly, if private or independent schools want to use taxpayer funds to operate their institutions, they must abide by the same requirements as public schools, including requirements such as transparency of budgets, accreditation of educators, and practicing non-discrimination with regard to race, gender, religion, special needs, etc. If certain public or independent schools do not want to abide by such requirements, they are free to find other means by which to fund their operations — but they cannot demand the use of taxpayer funds to do so.

Currently before the Vermont Legislature are two bills — H.258 and S.66 — which address the issue of continuing the town tuition program while operating within the legal requirements of the Vermont Constitution (Ch. 1, Art. 3 – “… no person … can be compelled to … support any place of worship … contrary to the dictates of conscience”), as well as the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carson v. Makin (requiring that any state that publicly funds independent or private schools to also fund religious private schools). These bills reform the town tuition program in ways that respect local control, historic academies that were created by legislative charter, and align legally with both the United States and Vermont Constitutions. Please let your legislators know that you support the idea that all institutions which rely on taxpayer funds should play by the same rules.

Mark Koenig

Vergennes

VSBA Board Member

ANWSD Board Member

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