By LISA RATHKE
The Vermont Agency of Education and several school districts will pay school tuition and legal fees to five families to settle lawsuits challenging the state’s practice of not paying for students to attend religious schools if their towns do not have a public school. The two sides agreed to dismiss the lawsuits in court filings late Wednesday. The settlements come in the aftermath of a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said Maine schools cannot exclude religious schools from a program that offers tuition aid for private education. Like Maine, Vermont pays a tuition benefit for students living in towns that do not have a public school to attend other public schools or approved private schools of their choice.