Constitutional Provisions

Compelled Support Clause

“[A]nd that no person ought to, or of right can be compelled to attend any religious worship, or erect or support any place of worship, or maintain any minister, contrary to the dictates of conscience .…” Vermont Const. Ch. I, Art. 3.

Vouchers: No

Tax Credits: Yes

Existing Private School Choice Programs

Town Tuitioning System (excludes religious schools)

Vermont Statutes Annotated Title 16, Sections 166, 821 to 836

Relevant Case Law

Chittenden Town School District v. Vermont Department of Education, 738 A.2d 539 (Vt.), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 1066 (1999)

The Vermont Supreme Court held that permitting parents in “tuitioning” towns—where the town pays tuition to the parent’s school of choice instead of maintaining public schools—to choose religious schools violated the Vermont Constitution’s Compelled Support Clause because there are no restrictions to ensure that state funds would not support religious worship.

Campbell v. Manchester Board of School Directors, 641 A.2d 352 (Vt. 1994)

Noting changes in First Amendment jurisprudence, the Vermont Supreme Court held that requiring a local school district to reimburse a parent who sent his child to a parochial school did not violate the First Amendment. The decision overrules Swart v. South Burlington Town School District, 167 A.2d 514 (Vt. 1961), which held the opposite.

Vermont Educational Buildings Financing Agency v. Mann, 247 A.2d 68 (Vt. 1968)

The Vermont Supreme Court held that a statute allowing a state agency to issue tax-exempt revenue bonds to finance construction of buildings on behalf of private colleges and universities neither advanced nor inhibited religion and therefore did not violate the First Amendment.

Analysis and Recommendations

Tax credits are Vermont’s best school choice option. Its constitution contains a Compelled Support Clause that the Vermont Supreme Court has read to exclude parents who choose religious schools from participating in the current voucher program.

Model Legislation: Education Savings Account, Great Schools Tax Credit Program, Family Education Tax Credit Program

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