New Jersey

Constitutional Provisions

Compelled Support Clause

“[N]or shall any person be obliged to pay tithes, taxes, or other rates for building or repairing any church or churches, place or places of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or ministry, contrary to what he believes to be right or has deliberately and voluntarily engaged to perform.” New Jersey Const. Art. I, ¶ 3.

Education Provisions

“The Legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools for the instruction of all the children in the State between the ages of five and eighteen years.” New Jersey Const. Art. VIII, § IV, ¶ 1.

“The fund for the support of free public schools … shall be securely invested, and remain a perpetual fund; and the income thereof, except so much as it may be judged expedient to apply to an increase of the capital, shall be annually appropriated to the support of free public schools, and for the equal benefit of all the people of the State; and it shall not be competent, except as hereinafter provided, for the Legislature to borrow, appropriate or use the said fund or any part thereof for any other purpose, under any pretense whatever.” New Jersey Const. Art. VIII, § IV, ¶ 2.

Vouchers: Yes

Tax Credits: Yes

Existing Private School Choice Programs

As mandated by Abbott v. Burke, the New Jersey Commissioner of Education must provide vouchers for pre-school programs for all three- and four-year olds, who may attend public or private programs.

Relevant Case Law

Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947)

The U.S. Supreme Court held that the First Amendment does not prohibit New Jersey from spending public funds to pay the bus fares of parochial school pupils as a part of a general program under which it paid the fares of students attending public schools.

Resnick v. East Brunswick Township Board of Education, 389 A.2d
944 (N.J. 1978)

The New Jersey Supreme Court held that the state could allow religious groups that fully reimbursed school boards for related out-of-pocket expenses to use school facilities on a temporary basis for religious services without violating the federal or New Jersey Constitutions.

Clayton v. Kervick, 285 A.2d 11 (N.J. 1971)

Applying federal Establishment Clause precedent, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that supplying public funds for the construction of dorms at private colleges passes constitutional scrutiny as long as the buildings are not used for religious instruction and the school does not discriminate on the basis of religion in its admissions.

Everson v. Board of Education, 44 A.2d 333 (N.J. 1945)

New Jersey’s highest court held that the transportation of private school students at public expense was designed to help parents comply with mandatory attendance laws, which is a public purpose, and therefore does not violate the New Jersey Constitution.

Analysis and Recommendations

Both tax credit programs and vouchers are school choice options for New Jersey. Its constitution does not contain a Blaine Amendment, and its Compelled Support Clause, while receiving little judicial attention, does not appear to preclude the use of funds other than those allotted for the public schools to support educational vouchers.

Model Legislation: Education Savings Account, Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Universal Eligibility), Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Means-Tested Eligibility), Special Needs Scholarship Program, Foster Child Scholarship Program, Autism Scholarship, Great Schools Tax Credit Program, Family Education Tax Credit Program

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