Vermont lawmakers are considering changing the way students who live in small towns that don’t offer public school for all grade levels choose where to attend class. The small River Valleys school district, in rural Windham County, does not operate a high school or a middle school, for example. Under Vermont’s school choice system, graduates of grade schools there can get public money for tuition at middle and high schools outside the district. Most students then go to schools in neighboring towns. Some have gone out of the state and three River Valleys students went to a private school in Sweden last year. A bill in the Vermont Senate would restrict where students statewide can go, to Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire and Quebec. There would be an exception for students who need specialized schools. Statewide, for the 2020-2021 school year, about 3,000 Vermont students used the tuition money to attend public schools outside of their district, while about another 2,700 students attended independent schools, according to the Vermont Independent Schools Association. School districts spent nearly $1.5 million to send roughly 100 students to private schools outside the state and the country. Currently districts must pay up to a certain fixed amount per year for these students’ tuition. Because of that cap, it typically does not cost the district more to send a student to an out-of-state private school, rather than a nearby public one. If the private school tuition costs more, their families must pay the rest.
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