Christopher W. Hammons, Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation
Given the media hubbub surrounding the pending U.S. Supreme Court case on the constitutionality of school vouchers in Ohio, some may be surprised to learn that a kindred practice has been in place in rural Maine and Vermont since the late 19th century. In a Friedman Foundation report released in February, author Christopher Hammons explains those states' practice of "town tuitioning," which allows parents living in small districts that do not own and operate their own public schools to send their children to public or secular private schools in other districts, within or outside the state, using funds provided by the home district. Of nearly 500 towns in Maine, 55 "tuition out" all their students and another 93 tuition out all of their high school students. Of Vermont's 246 towns, 15 tuition out all students and 95 more do this with their high school students. Parental choice generally determines where these students attend school (64% of the time in Maine and 95% of the time in Vermont). Hammons argues that the advantages of town tuitioning are manifold: schools perform better in a competitive environment, the benefits of school choice are spread across racial and demographic divides, and the practice saves taxpayers millions. Possibly the most surprising aspect of town tuitioning is that these century-old programs have existed more or less under the radar of contemporary education debates, failing to draw the national attention that urban voucher programs have. You'll find this report at http://www.friedmanfoundation.org/grafx/finalmainetext.pdf. For more about this form of school choice in Maine and Vermont, see "Briefing Papers on Vouchers" at http://www.edexcellence.net/gadfly/issue.cfm?issue=84#1280.