City Should Pay Religious Schools Tuition Fees


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Croydon residents Dennis and Cathy Griffin have been sending their grandson Clayton, now 12, to Mount Royal Academy, a kindergarten to grade 12 Catholic school in Sunapee, since he was in first grade. Now they say a recent US Supreme Court ruling means the city should pay its tuition fees.

In a lawsuit filed on September 2, the family said religious schools should be included in educational choice programs, further advancing the same school choice debate that focused on the town of Croydon in the past.

“What we want to do with this lawsuit is say that it is unconstitutional to exclude religious schools just because they are religious and ask the NH law to better understand what the law requires,” said Kirby West, lawyer for the Institute of Justice. , which represents the Griffins.

Croydon, which has a population of around 778, operates a K-4 public school called Croydon Village School, but does not have a middle or high school. This is part of the New Hampshire Tuition Program in which towns without their own schools pay for their students to attend nearby non-religious public or private schools. However, a state law currently prohibits these towns from paying for religious schools, so the Griffins were not eligible for the town’s tuition fees at the Mount Royal Catholic Academy.

A recent decision could change that.

In July, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue that once a state decides to subsidize private education, it cannot disqualify a private school from that program just because it is a religious school.

In a press release, Dennis Griffin said he hoped New Hampshire would follow the lead of the United States Supreme Court.

“We chose what we think is the best school for our grandson,” said Dennis Griffin. “It’s not fair that we can’t get the same support that other families in town get just because her school is religious.”

One year of high school tuition at Mount Royal Academy is $ 7,005.

Croydon was embroiled in a school choice legal dispute in 2016, when the state tried to prevent the city from paying tuition fees to private schools. The dispute led the Legislature to pass the ‘Croydon Bill’ which was signed in 2017, allowing towns without a public school to pay for students to attend a private school. The bill excluded payment to religious schools.

West said the plaintiffs have filed for a preliminary injunction in the case, which means that if the court decides in their favor, the city’s school boards can start providing tuition for religious schools as soon as possible. that the decision is made.

The Griffins are currently awaiting a response from the Department of Education. If the state files a motion to dismiss the complaint, it will go to court, although West says she suspects the case will be settled without a trial. She hopes the case will be resolved within the next six months.

Education Ministry commissioner Frank Edelblut said in a statement he could not comment on the ongoing legal proceedings, but wanted to treat schools on an equal footing.

“I have asked the attorney general’s office to review our programs to ensure they comply with the law and to treat all non-public schools equally, regardless of their religious affiliation,” said Edelblut.

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