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January 2021

The decision allows students in religious schools to have access to vouchers. Now what?

By Religious school
Rice High School
Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington is at the center of a lawsuit filed on behalf of families seeking payment of tuition fees for students. Photo by Jim Welch / VTDigger

A federal appeals judge ruled that three Vermont school districts cannot, at this time, exclude Catholic school students from the state’s voucher system.

It remains to be seen whether this ruling will stand and what it means for the state’s decades-long ban on spending public funds on religious schools.

But a series of rulings suggest Vermont may soon find out whether two constitutional principles – one enshrined in the US Constitution, the other in Vermont – can actually coexist.

Vermont is currently defending itself in court against two separate lawsuits brought by two powerful national conservative legal groups. Both cases argue that the exclusion of religious schools from the state’s “municipal education” curriculum is unconstitutional. Districts that do not have their own schools have been allowed to “educate” students in private or public schools. Eighty-one cities across the state offer the choice of school option, which is paid for by taxpayer dollars.

One of the lawsuits was filed by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian legal group, on behalf of families seeking to send their children to Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland and the New England Classical Academy in Claremont, New Hampshire . The other was filed by Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal group, on behalf of families seeking tuition fees for students at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington.

Both lawsuits came following a US Supreme Court case this summer, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which is expected to have major implications for school choice programs nationwide. In Decision 5-4, the court ruled that Montana’s ban on families from applying state tax credit scholarships to religious schools unconstitutionally violated religious freedom.

The precedent-setting case rejected the so-called Blaine Amendments in state constitutions, which prohibit taxpayer-funded benefits to religious entities solely because they are religious.

Writing for the majority, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was careful to assert that Montana violated the free exercise clause because it denied funds on the basis from status, and left open the possibility that states could still regulate use taxpayer funds.

This distinction is why the question of whether the church’s own constitutional protection and state of Vermont – its “mandatory support clause” – will resist Espinoza is still an open question.

The Vermont Constitution draftsmen believed that “no one should be coerced into contributing to the propagation of religious views with which he fundamentally disagrees,” said Peter Teachout, professor of constitutional law at Vermont Law School.

“I think there has to be a way to respect both the mandatory support clause and the underlying principle … and the free exercise clause, which says you can’t discriminate against religious institutions just because of their religious status, “he said.

But these cases could test that. And if they end up in the highest court in the land, it could be bad for Vermont.

“I think the current Supreme Court would be inclined to rule on the free exercise clause, which would essentially nullify the mandatory support clause in the Vermont Constitution,” he said.

Where Vermont draws the line

Vermont blocked taxpayer funding for students attending religious schools on the basis of a Landmark Vermont Supreme Court case in 1999. In Chittenden Town School District v. Department of Education judges ruled that the district violated the mandatory support clause by allowing the payment of tuition fees to a religious school “in the absence of adequate safeguards against the use of those funds for religious worship.” . “

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in both cases have made it clear that for more than 20 years since the Chittenden decision, the state has not bothered to explain what such “adequate safeguards” might look like. Instead, he generally refused requests from religious groups to participate in public education programs and advised school districts paying tuition to do the same.

In one January 7 decision in the Alliance Defending Freedom case, federal judge Christina Reiss wrote that while the court would “overstep its authority” if it imposed its own set of “adequate safeguards”, school districts could not deny claims for reimbursement tuition fees to schools just because they are religious.

“This means the court must order the school’s defendants to refrain from denying plaintiffs’ tuition reimbursement claims solely on the basis of (Rice’s) religious affiliation, but it must not go any further. away to determine how the decision should be made, ”she wrote.

A week later, the Education Agency directives issued what these guarantees might look like.

“Vermont school districts may pay tuition fees to schools affiliated with a religion and may not discriminate against an organization on the basis of religion or religious character or organization affiliation,” officials wrote. of the agency in the note. But if they did, the state said, districts could request “written attestation from every approved independent school that accepts tuition that public funds will not be spent on worship, the religious instruction or proselytism “.

A week later, the courts ruled again. At the request of the plaintiffs, the judge of the Federal Court of Appeal of the second circuit, Steven Menashi, issued a emergency injunction – pending appeal – ending the exclusion of families from the city’s education program. The injunction request will now be considered by a three-judge “motions committee”, which is expected to reconsider the matter next Tuesday.

In his two paragraph commission, Menashi, a Trump named, simply said that the plaintiffs had established a “substantial probability” that they would win because the districts had refused their request for reimbursement of tuition fees “solely because of (Rice’s) religious affiliation.”

Uncomfortable position

Michael Clark, superintendent of the Grand Isle Supervisory Union, which includes two of the school districts named in the case, said Tuesday that the districts had not yet distributed money for tuition fees to Rice, but “it is very likely that we are looking at a change in practice. based on those decisions.

Teachout said Menashi’s order puts the districts in a difficult position. Pay the tuition to Rice, “in a context where tuition is used to support religious education and worship,” and a school could run the risk of violating the Vermont Constitution. Don’t pay school fees, he said, and a school could violate the Espinoza case and Menashi’s order.

Teachout says school districts should adopt a policy that all private schools – regardless of affiliation or religious status – are required to certify that public tuition fees will not be used to support religious programs or cults. This is in line with recent agency guidelines, which specify this certification process.

But Rice “practically has a policy of ubiquitous religious education and worship throughout the program,” he said.

The Catholic school could very well choose to certify that it does not use public funds for religious programs, Teachout said. Or “they could simply bring a challenge in court, claiming that this requirement to provide certification violates their free exercise rights.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in both cases suggested that they might opt ​​for the latter.

“Any attempt to blow a school or religious student through extra hoops to get the same benefits our neighbors are receiving is unconstitutional,” Defending Freedom Alliance attorney Ryan Tucker said.

The case of the Institute for Justice has so far passed from the courts to the National Board of Education, where families can appeal a school board’s decision to deny them tuition reimbursement. A hearing has not yet been scheduled, but David Hodges, an attorney for the families, expressed a similar sentiment regarding the agency’s latest guidelines.

“Our view is that they impose burdens on religious schools that they do not impose on non-religious schools. And it’s discrimination, outright, ”he said.

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Court supports religious school student’s participation in Vermont dual enrollment program

By Religious school

A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that the exclusion of a Catholic school student from a Vermont program allowing some high school students to duplicate college courses at state expense was likely unconstitutional under recent United States Supreme Court rulings on the free exercise of religion.

A panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, New York, unanimously quashed a judge in a federal district court and ruled that a student at Rice Memorial High School, which is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, deserved a preliminary injunction blocking the exclusion of religious school students from the dual enrollment program.

The student, identified in court documents as AH, lives in South Hero, Vermont, one of several communities in the state that does not operate a public high school and allows parents to send their children to schools. long-standing private schools under Vermont. practice of “schooling”.

In litigation dating back more than 20 years, courts have ruled that the Vermont Constitution clause prohibiting forced support of religion places limits on the use of public funds to pay tuition fees for students attending schools. religious schools.

The dual enrollment program allows high school students to take up to two university courses at public expense. The Vermont Education Agency interpreted state law as essentially preventing students in religious schools from participating, according to the AH lawsuit. In 2015, court documents indicate that a program coordinator said “students from a Christian or parish school or privately funded students are not eligible for dual enrollment.”

When AH sought to take two science courses at the University of Vermont, his public school district turned down his application for the dual enrollment program.

AH and her parents, as well as Rice Memorial High School, challenged the exclusion of students from religious schools under the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause. Last March, a federal district court dismissed the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction and said they were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claims.

However, in June, the Supreme Court ruled Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, finding that a Montana state constitutional provision prohibiting aid to religious schools discriminated against schools and families seeking a state tax credit for grant donations . This decision is based on a 2017 High Court decision, Columbia Trinity Lutheran Church c. Comer, who ruled that Missouri had violated the free exercise clause by refusing to allow a church to receive a grant from a public program to improve playground safety.

Shortly after the Espinoza decision, the court of the 2nd circuit issued an emergency injunction to AH allowing him to participate in the double enrollment program this school year. The tribunal then heard arguments on appeal, and in its decision of January 15 in AH v. French, ruled for the student and the Catholic high school.

“After Lutheran Trinity and Espinoza, [A.H. and the school] have a clear likelihood of success on the merits of their First Amendment claim as applied, ”the 2nd Circuit court said. “The record of this appeal clearly shows religious discrimination. In the seven years since the enactment of the DEP, no religious school or any of their students have ever been allowed to participate. “

The decision was made unanimously by two members of a three-member panel who heard the arguments in the case. The third panel member, U.S. Circuit Senior Judge Ralph K. Winter, died in December.

Judge John M. Walker Jr.’s Main Opinion and Judge Steven J. Menashi Accord discuss some quirks of Vermont’s tuition program, including the fact that some districts pay tuition fees for students attending schools religious because previous court rulings allowed such payments when they were “adequate”. guarantees ”have been observed. (They say the state has never clearly defined what these adequate constitutional guarantees are.)

Walker said the evidence appears to show that students in religious schools are categorically excluded from the dual enrollment program, a result that is unnecessary under the First Amendment ban on establishing a religion by the government.

“Any objection to the establishment clause would be particularly unfounded here, as Vermont funds the DEP by paying tuition fees directly to Vermont colleges, not religious high schools,” Walker said.

The 2nd Circuit decision is at least the second by a federal appeals court to implement the Supreme Court decision Espinoza decision to an eccentric state tuition assistance program.

In October, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, in Boston, confirmed the exclusion by the State of Maine of “sectarian” schools of its program to pay private school tuition fees for students in communities without high schools, notwithstanding the Espinoza decision.

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Southern Industrial Careers Center designates vocational school as the link between welding employers and certified employees

By Vocational school

The Southern Industrial Careers Center provides employers of welders with resources and federal financial support to educate and train future welders

LOS ANGELES, CA / ACCESSWIRE / January 6, 2021 / The Southern Industrial Careers Center is pleased to announce its vocational school as a link between welding companies and qualified welders. Students at the school, known as Gorilla Welders, are trained, certified, and ready to be placed into employment opportunities in welding and manufacturing.

To learn more about the Southern Industrial Careers Center and / or to apply for the program, please visit

The team of experts at the Southern Industrial Careers Center know that there is a great demand for welding and manufacturing skills in the United States. However, they also realized that many of their students needed help finding employment after being certified, so they decided to implement internship programs, placement opportunities and financial resources for them.

These achievements inspired the team to collaborate with welding companies looking for highly qualified and trained employees. Their students are trained in an industrial facility composed only of the most experienced instructors. With a small student-teacher ratio, students get plenty of one-on-one time with their instructors.

“The ‘Gorilla Welders’ are a group of students who have proven to be the best welders in terms of quality of work, attendance and safety habits. Students complete a series of hands-on welding tests and practice. they all pass, they are certified, ”explains Southern Industrial Careers Center CEO Eliud Medina.

For students like Josue Julian, taking classes at the Southern Industrial Careers Center turned out to be one of the best decisions he has ever made. He enrolled in the Structural Fitter program without any experience in the field of welding and is committed to developing his skills and knowledge. He is now working with a subcontractor as a first class pipefitter. He currently builds offshore platforms, travels with contractors, and gets paid as he goes. Julian is one of the most successful students the Southern Industrial Careers Center has ever had and is “living proof” of the real effectiveness of vocational school.

Medina is very proud that in the four plus years of opening the Southern Industrial Career Center, hundreds of students have graduated with high placement rates.

“We also help seasonal workers, farm laborers and those living below the poverty line learn welding skills. We are passionate about helping the community with job placements and learning new skills.” Medina said, adding that the school is currently working with three financial programs: Texas Workforce Commission, MET INC, and a personal line of credit service.

Welding employers looking for already qualified and trained welders are encouraged to call to make an appointment and further discuss the collaboration on financial resources and placement opportunities for qualified welders. Eligible students at the Southern Industrial Careers Center may currently be eligible for on-the-job training programs that help the employer reimburse up to 75% of the employee’s salary. These incentives are created by state and federal resources to help employers create a pool of next-generation skilled workers. The Southern Industrial Careers Center is at the forefront of making the necessary adjustments to help find a solution to the skills shortage. Along with a great education program, the new workforce also needs great employers to help them take them to the next level.

About the South Industrial Career Center:

The Southern Industrial Careers Center is dedicated to teaching industrial trades in welding and manufacturing, and helping their students receive the best training through financial aid. One of the key elements that makes the “Gorilla Program” different is that students are trained in practical scenarios where they have the opportunity to experience field-like situations rather than a controlled environment of. welding tests for certification. Click here for more information:


Victoria kennedy
[email protected]

THE SOURCE: Southern Industrial Career Center

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