Students in some Vermont towns can attend school at any public or private school of their choosing — even out of state — while others are trapped in public schools that don’t fit their needs.
For one family, their disabled 15-year-old son who requires a wheelchair and assistance with basic, daily activities, suffered neglect from his assigned public elementary school. Once he was forgotten in the bathroom. Without any other options, his parents, Sarah and Louis Vitale, now face financial hardship and are struggling to afford the school’s tuition after his eighth-grade year, because their local school district denies them the option to choose a school that can best serve their son.
Vermont’s Town Tuitioning system is one of the nation’s oldest publicly funded school choice programs, dating back to the early 1800s, affords some students full access to educational choice. However, there are inequities in access to the program — some students have limited access and still others have no access to at all.
A group of Vermont parents are suing the state and local school districts over unequal access to education under the state’s 150-year-old Town Tuitioning system. The parents say the program violates the state constitution by allowing children residing in certain school districts to attend the school of their choice and denying the same right to others.
Attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center filed a lawsuit in state court against the State of Vermont, the state’s Secretary of Education, the state Board of Education and four of Vermont’s public school districts — Windham Northeast Union Elementary School District, Bellows Falls Union High School District, Lake Region Union Elementary School District and First Branch Unified School District. The Liberty Justice Center is a national, nonprofit law firm that fights to protect school choice across the country and is best known for its 2018 U.S. Supreme Court victory in Janus v. AFSCME.