Vermont School Choice

Genier v. Larson
Institute for Justice and Vermont Parents Challenged Exclusion of Religious Options from School Choice Program (IJ’s second Vermont school choice case)

For well over a century, Vermont’s “tuitioning” system has offered a sensible and popular solution for education in rural areas.  About half of Vermont towns participate, giving their residents the right to send their children to any school of their choice—public or private, in-state or out-of-state.  For about 90 years, that included the ability to select religious schools, something parents routinely did.  But since 1961, parents have been denied that choice.

That was when the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that including religious schools violates the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause.  The court reversed that ruling in 1994—theoretically restoring the right to select religious schools—and in 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed when it upheld Cleveland’s voucher program.

But the Vermont Department of Education continued the policy, even threatening to eliminate state aid to the Chittenden Town school board because Chittenden wished to grant tuition to parents selecting religious schools.  Chittenden, represented by IJ, sued to overturn the policy.  In 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court upheld the ban on religious schools—not under the federal Constitution, but under the Vermont Constitution’s “compelled support” clause.

In 2003, IJ filed a new lawsuit in federal court, arguing that Vermont’s exclusion of religious schooling options violates the federal free exercise rights of our clients.  After IJ’s clients transferred their children to public schools in 2004, IJ ended the lawsuit.

Essential Background


Backgrounder: for Genier, Vermont School Choice

Client Photo - none available

Client Video - none available

Latest Release: IJ Ends Vermont Challenge (March 11, 2004)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Launch Release: Institute for Justice Launches Third Lawsuit Seeking to Tear Down State-Based Barriers to School Choice (March 20, 2003)

none available

Case Timeline

Lawsuit Filed:


March 20, 2003

Court Filed:


U.S. District Court for Vermont



March 11, 2004: After its clients withdrew their children from religious schools to transfer them to public schools, IJ ended Vermont lawsuit



Case Completed

Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

none available

Vermont School Choice Timeline








Op-eds, News Articles and Links



Video: Where does the alphabet end?; (August 23, 2010)

Article: Vouchers for Vermont (June 2003)

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