Dec 13, 1999

The U.S. Supreme Court today announced it will not hear an appeal of a case from Vermont dealing with the controversial issue of vouchers for private religious schools.

The justices, without comment, refused to hear an appeal of a case filed by parents in Chittenden who wanted state funds to subsidize their children's tuition at a parochial school. Vermont law allows some rural communities that do not have public high schools to subsidize private school tuition but only at non-religious schools. The Vermont Supreme Court ruled that expanding the program to sectarian schools would violate the separation of church and state.

"The high court's action is bad news for voucher proponents," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "The justices have had several opportunities to accept a voucher case but have turned them all down. To me this indicates that the court is in no hurry to tackle this issue."

Lynn noted that less than two months ago the Supreme Court refused a similar case from Maine. He pointed out that two federal courts have also declared vouchers unconstitutional recently.

"The momentum is clearly not on the side of the voucher proponents," Lynn said.

Americans United, which filed court briefs in opposition to vouchers in the Vermont case, has been involved in every voucher case litigated recently in the state and federal courts. Most recently, the group joined public education and civil liberties organizations in filing suit against Florida's new statewide voucher program.