The Case for New Jersey’s Opportunity Scholarship Act

Joe Catuzzi
Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I. Introduction

        “Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin.”[1] Half a century after Brown v. Board of Education,[2] children in America’s poorest neighborhoods are told where they can and cannot attend school based on their parents’ incomes.[3] While public education is hailed as the “great equalizer” of American society, children in concentrated poverty are systematically denied a quality education if their parents cannot afford to move to better school districts or pay private school tuition.[4]

        Contrary to the spirit of Brown, which made clear that a two-tiered education system segregated by race generates feelings of inferiority, maintaining a two-tiered education system segregated by income and quality facilitates a belief that failure is inevitable.[5] While there are many causes for persistent educational failure in areas of concentrated poverty, compulsory school attendance laws combined with inflexible district boundaries create a system where disadvantaged children often have no choice but to attend chronically failing schools.[6] In New Jersey, these unforgiving district boundaries have helped lead to the segregation of public education by income, race, and quality.[7]

        The Garden State tries to address the failure of its impoverished districts by investing billions of dollars in supplemental state aid.[8] Unfortunately, decades of evidence reveal that equalization of funding provides neither equal educational opportunities nor a seriously reduced achievement gap.[9] Guided by this evidence, New Jersey’s state legislature has proposed a series of education reforms that emphasize quality spending.[10] These proposals include tenure reform and merit teacher pay, as well as the opening of more charter and magnet schools in failing districts.[11] The Opportunity Scholarship Act (“OSA") finds its appropriate place in this broader reform framework.[12]

        The OSA is an attempt to shake up the status quo in New Jersey’s poorest districts by allowing low-income parents to choose a school that best fits their child’s needs. In essence, the OSA operates as a limited voucher for low-income students living in the state’s worst performing school districts.[13] While the OSA is not the “magic pill” that will solve New Jersey’s education crisis, it allows students to escape failing schools and implicitly asserts that more money alone will not help those students currently attending the state’s worst performing schools.[14] Despite receiving bipartisan political support, including leaders in New Jersey’s worst performing school districts, the OSA has not even been given a vote.[15]       

        Nonetheless, the OSA is a critical step in the right direction to increase educational opportunities for students currently attending New Jersey’s worst performing schools. Despite heavy criticism from the New Jersey Education Association—the state’s largest teacher’s union—the OSA is a good policy choice and does not violate the Education Clause of the New Jersey Constitution.[16] On the contrary, if the Education Clause ensures that New Jersey children have the right to a certain quality education, then it would seem that parents already have a constitutional right to transfer their child out of a chronically failing school.

II. What is the OSA?

        The OSA seeks to create a four-year pilot program that allows the Department of the Treasury to issue tax credits to corporations in exchange for donations to scholarship organizations.[17] First, the total funds raised—roughly $138 million over four years—would be allocated to seven “target districts” that are among the state’s most severely underperforming districts.[18] Second, vouchers would be distributed to the parents or guardians of low-income children that currently attend “chronically failing schools.”[19] The individual scholarships will be distributed on a rolling basis unless the number of applicants exceeds the number of available scholarships, in which case there would be a lottery.[20] Third, the OSA would create a special board to oversee the administration of the program and monitor its impact.[21]

        To be eligible for a voucher, a child must be considered low-income, which means the child is “from a household with an income that does not exceed 1.85 times the official federal poverty level based on family size.”[22] If a child satisfies the “low-income” standard and is currently attending a chronically failing school, then he or she would become eligible to receive a $6,000 scholarship for grades K-8 and a $9,000 voucher for high school.[23] The vouchers can be used at any approved and participating out-of-district public or private school.[24]

        Participating schools must accept the scholarship as payment for the child’s full tuition and keep the student enrolled for at least two years.[25] If the school is religiously affiliated, the student must be allowed to opt out of any religious instruction or activities.[26] Additionally, to maintain student cohesion if a child loses his or her “low income” status, he or she will maintain the scholarship until completing the eighth or twelfth grade.[27] Moreover, the seven target districts would be responsible for the costs of transporting a voucher recipient to the new school.[28] Transportation costs notwithstanding, target districts would still receive substantial state aid for students residing in their districts but participating in the program.[29] In effect, some schools would receive significant funding for students that do not even attend their schools.[30]

III. The OSA Does Not Violate the Education Clause of the New Jersey Constitution

        The OSA does not violate the New Jersey Constitution because it attempts to give meaning to the notion that its Education Clause guarantees a certain quality of education. However, given the New Jersey Supreme Court’s active role in education financing, the court may require the state legislature to increase funding to the OSA’s target districts. According to the New Jersey Constitution, 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.”[31] The New Jersey Supreme Court has aggressively interpreted this clause to achieve broad education-finance reforms to increase the quality of public schools.[32]  

        First, in the landmark case of Robinson v. Cahill,[33] the New Jersey Supreme Court held that the state’s then-existing education finance scheme was unconstitutional because it did not provide adequate funding to poorer districts.[34] Through a series of education finance litigation known as the Abbott decisions, the court created special “Abbott districts,” composed of the state’s poorest districts.[35] The court mandated the equalization of funding to these districts noting that, “the poorer the district and the greater its need, the less the money available, and the worse the education.”[36] Under that general premise, the court invalidated education financing statutes that did not provide what it considered to be adequate funding.[37]

        While funding quantity has been at the heart of Education Clause interpretation, the New Jersey Supreme Court has also stated that the Clause guarantees a certain qualitative standard. Notably in Robinson, the court asserted that the Education Clause demands that children receive equal educational opportunities and an education that prepares them to be good citizens and compete in the labor market.[38] More recently, in Crawford v. Davy,[39] a group of parents with children in failing schools argued that their children should be able to transfer to an out-of-district school because of their current school’s poor quality.[40] The parents asked the court to declare that New Jersey’s district boundaries and compulsory attendance laws were unconstitutional because they violated their childrens’ right to a thorough and efficient education.[41]

        Noting that the parents were asking for a “wholesale restructuring of New Jersey’s [public education] system,” the court stated that their proposed remedy was premature.[42] The court’s reading of Abbott XX required the SFRA to have an opportunity to be fully implemented.[43] Moreover, the court asserted that the parents’ claim was non-justiciable because it could not craft a proper remedy.[44] Assuming the OSA is passed and challenged, the Court might simply reiterate Crawford’s holding that the SFRA should be fully implemented before any voucher experiments are conducted.[45] However, the Court has not shied away from making “wholesale restructurings” in the past; thus, the dreams of the parents in Crawford might come true. To support the constitutionality of OSA vouchers and students’ rights to transfer out of failing schools, future litigants might be wise to argue that the New Jersey Supreme Court should apply its “inclusionary zoning” principles from its land use jurisprudence.

        As argued by the plaintiff’s in Crawford, school district boundaries often prevent poor children living in concentrated poverty from attending high performing public schools.[46] In operation, these boundaries work against poor children in the same manner that exclusionary land use zoning regulations work against poor citizens who need affordable housing options.[47] Yet, “considering the basic importance of the opportunity for appropriate housing,” the Court holds that no municipality may engage in exclusionary zoning practices.[48]  

        In Southern Burlington County N.A.A.C.P. v. Mount Laurel Township.,[49] the New Jersey Supreme Court held that every municipality “must, by its land use regulations, presumptively make realistically possible an appropriate variety and choice of housing.”[50] The court explained that municipalities have an affirmative obligation to provide their “fair share” of their region’s affordable housing need.[51] This affirmative obligation was deemed necessary because zoning is administered on a local basis and without regional agreements low-income families would be forced to live in areas that offer low-quality governmental services, specifically poorer quality education.[52]

        The ultimate goal of this “Mount Laurel Doctrine” is to combat New Jersey’s affordable housing crisis by preventing self-interested municipalities from excluding low-income citizens.[53] Unfortunately when it comes to combating the state’s educational crisis, individual school districts are allowed to be completely self-interested and exclude out-of-district students.[54] Permitting these exclusionary practices in education, but not in affordable housing appears to be disingenuous to the spirit of inclusion and regional responsibility embodied in the Mount Laurel Doctrine. [55]

        Applying the doctrine in the context of public education would create an affirmative obligation for high performing public school districts to provide their “fair share” of their region’s educational demand.[56] Moreover, if the Education Clause truly guarantees a certain quality of education, then the state has an affirmative obligation to ensure students can transfer out of a chronically failing school. Applying the basic precepts imbedded in the Mount Laurel Doctrine to the Education Clause creates a compelling argument to support the constitutionality of the OSA, and might even require the state to engage in a “wholesale restructuring” of its public education system in areas of concentrated poverty.[57]

IV. The OSA is a Step in the Right Direction

        Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” While providing extra funding to failing public schools in concentrated poverty is necessary, history demonstrates that New Jersey would be insane to believe that merely spending more money will cure its persistent achievement gap.[58] Despite much criticism, the OSA is not an irresponsible use of public funding, it is not likely to further decrease the quality of failing schools, and it would not result in sending children to private schools that “lack standards.”

        First, linking school attendance to residency concentrates the state’s poorest children—often children with the greatest needs—into failing schools.[59] This assignment structure is particularly unwise because aside from a student’s own socio-economic status, the socio-economic make-up of a school’s student body is one of the most important factors that impacts academic achievement.[60] Moreover, this system has resulted in severe socio-economic isolation with many urban districts comprised of mostly low-income and minority students being forced to attend failing schools.[61]

        While education should provide a means to escape poverty, schools in poor neighborhoods are found to breed cultures that disparage academic success.[62]  Children attending these schools often find themselves surrounded by poverty with few role models, and sometimes develop distrust for the notion that their hard work will lead to success.[63] The OSA tries to combat this problem by allowing parents to send their children to schools that have proven academic records, unique learning environments, and schools that are more socio-economically diverse.[64]

        Second, the OSA is a more efficient way to spend money.[65] New Jersey provides supplementary funding to its poorest school districts, making some failing schools the most expensive schools per-student in America.[66] For example, in 2012 Asbury Park was the second highest-spending district in America, spending $23,940 per student to attend chronically failing schools.[67] Under the OSA, a student could receive a better education at a private or out-of-district public school for $6,000, creating a savings of $17,940.[68] Asbury Park would not be left empty handed; rather, it would retain the $17,940 to be spread across a smaller class.[69]

        Additionally, the OSA would not dramatically cut funding from chronically failing public schools.[70] The total cost of the OSA is roughly $138 million dollars spread over four years.[71] To put this cost in perspective, the Newark Public School District’s 2012-2013 operating budget was $875 million dollars.[72] The OSA would actually lead to smaller class sizes and an increase in per-pupil spending in chronically failing schools.[73] It is difficult to see why a child that could receive a better education at $6,000 should accept an education of poorer quality for over $20,000.

        Third, the OSA is not likely to decrease the quality of chronically failing schools.[74] Although the OSA will probably skim the top performing children and active parents from failing schools, it is likely that the number of these students and families are already too small to make meaningful impacts in failing schools.[75] Even without “the cream of the crop,” low expectations from teachers and administrators in many failing schools perpetuate already low academic standards and less advanced curriculum offerings.[76] Further, the OSA should not be rejected because it only helps a “select few,” under such logic a myriad of valuable social programs would be rejected.[77]

        Fourth, students attending private schools are still entitled to special education services.[78] Although private schools are not required to offer the same special education services, they are still obliged to work with the local school district to classify students and develop a special education plan.[79] The OSA merely gives parents the choice to send their child to a private school and requires participating schools to obtain written acknowledgement from parents that they understand their child might not receive the same special education services.[80]

        Finally, other targeted voucher programs have proven successful.[81] For example, studies of a similar voucher program in New York City revealed that children using vouchers demonstrate improved academic performance and were more likely attend college.[82] Specifically, the City’s voucher program increased full time college enrollment by thirty one percent and doubled acceptance rates at selective colleges.[83]

V. Conclusion

        The OSA is only one part of a broader reform that gives meaning to the Education Clause’s guarantee of a quality education.[84] On a fundamental level, New Jersey illustrates that more money alone will not improve educational quality in failing districts. While the state implements strategies to turnaround its failing schools, the OSA should be passed and parents in affected districts should be educated on the availability and significance of OSA vouchers.[85]



* Joe Catuzzi is a 2014 J.D. Candidate at Villanova University School of Law and an Editor of Student Works on the Villanova Law Review.

[1] Parents Involved in Cmty. Schs. v. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1, 551 U.S. 701, 747 (2007).

[2] 347 U.S. 483 (1954).

[3] See Laura D’Andrea Tyson, Income Inequality and Educational Opportunity, N.Y. TIMES (Sept. 21, 2004, 6:00 AM), http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/21/income-inequality-and-educational-opportunity/.

[4] See James E. Ryan & Michael Heise, The Political Economy of School Choice, 111 YALE L.J. 2043, 2104 (2002) (discussing problems facing schools in concentrated poverty).    

[5] See Brown, 347 U.S. at 494 (“To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.”). See generally Kathy Sylva, School Influences on Children’s Development, 35 J. CHILD PSYCHOL. & PSYCHIATRY 135 (1994), available at http://stmaryseminars.tripod.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/rsylva.pdf (describing how social cognitions and feelings are influenced by composition of schools’ student bodies).

[6] See Goodwin Liu & William L. Taylor, School Choice to Achieve Desegregation, 74 FORDHAM L. REV. 791, 792-93 (2005) (observing link between school attendance, place of residence and low quality schools); see also Whitney Tilson, Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor, Studies Say, WHITNEY TILSON'S SCH. REFORM BLOG (Feb. 12, 2012),  http://edreform.blogspot.com/2012/02/education-gap-grows-between-rich-and.html (discussing links between low-income status and education achievement gaps).

[7] See Brown, Abbott and NJ’s Segregated Public Schools, EDUC. LAW. CTR.,  http://www.edlawcenter.org/news/archives/other-issues/277.html (last visited Apr. 4, 2013) (describing de facto segregation in New Jersey’s schools). 

[8] CHRISTOPHER D. CERF, N.J. DEP'T OF EDUC., EDUCATION FUNDING REPORT 5-9 (2012) [hereinafter EDUCATION FUNDING REPORT], available at  http://www.state.nj.us/education/stateaid/1213/report.pdf.

[9] See id. at 7.

[10] See id. at 8 (“[New Jersey courts, legislatures, and past-governors] took an inarguable proposition—namely, that a school must have sufficient dollars to succeed—and twisted it into the wrong-headed notion that dollars alone equal success.”); see also Ryan & Heise, supra note 4, at 2104-05 (stating that school spending “mattered very little” when reviewing impacts on educational results).

[11] See EDUCATION FUNDING REPORT, supra note 8, at 28-48 (analyzing proposed education reforms). 

[12] See id. at 48 (noting importance of Opportunity Scholarship Act in broader education reform).

[13] Id.

[14] See Press Release, N.J. Dep’t of Educ., Christie Administration Announces Highest Levels of K-12 State Aid Funding in New Jersey History (Feb. 28, 2013),  http://www.state.nj.us/education/news/2013/0228aid.htm.

[15] See Jessica Calefati, Newark Mayor Cory Booker Touts Scholarship Bill that Would Allow Some Students to Attend Private School, NJ.COM (May 4, 2012), http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/05/newark_ mayor_ cory_booker_touts.html (noting Democratic Mayor of Newark, Cory Booker’s support for OSA); see also Opportunity Scholarship Act, Assemb. B. No. 2830, 215th Leg. § 4 (N.J. 2013) (listing bipartisan sponsorship).

[16] N.J. CONST. art. VIII, § 4, ¶ 1.                                      

[17] See Opportunity Scholarship Act § 4. Scholarship organizations are non-profits that are responsible for receiving funds from corporations and distributing the vouchers to the parents. See id. § 3 (defining scholarship organization).

[18] See id. § 6 (describing method for voucher distribution).  Scholarships will be allocated by “multiplying the total funds available for scholarships by the percent obtained when dividing the total enrollment, excluding preschool students, in the chronically failing schools in the targeted district by the total enrollment, excluding preschool students, in chronically failing schools located in a targeted district Statewide.” Id. The target districts include “Asbury Park City School District, Camden City School District, Elizabeth City School District, Lakewood City School District, Newark City School District, City of Orange School District, and Passaic City School District.” Id. § 3.

[19] See id. § 4 (describing eligibility requirement for children); see also id. § 3 (defining chronically failing schools). The New Jersey Department of education is required to provide a list of chronically failing schools in target districts to the OSA Board. See id. § 7 (describing method to identify chronically failing schools).

[20] See Opportunity Scholarship Act § 6 (explaining how vouchers are distributed to parents).

[21] See id. § 5 (listing requirements of the Opportunity Scholarship Board).

[22] Id. § 3; see also Vicki E. Alger, Freeing Students from Failing Schools in New Jersey, INDEP. WOMEN'S FORUM (May 20, 2012), http://iwf.org/blog/2787946/ (stating that family of four would be considered low-income if family had total income of $43,000).

[23] See Opportunity Scholarship Act § 3 (providing scholarship amounts). Thirty percent of the scholarships will be designated for high school and seventy percent for elementary education. See id. § 6 (describing voucher distribution). The number of available scholarships is as follows: 2,000 scholarships in the first year; 4,000 in the second year; 6,000 in the third year; 8,000 in the fourth year. See id.

[24] See id. § 3 (defining eligible schools).

[25] See id. § 6 (listing requirements for eligible schools accepting children with OSA vouchers). 

[26] See id. (explaining that parochial schools must allow the “scholarship student to opt out of any classes that provide religious instruction or any religious activities . . . .”).

[27] Opportunity Scholarship Act § 6.

[28] See id. § 11.

[29] See id. § 10 (“Notwithstanding any provision of section 5 . . . for each scholarship student who resides in the district, the amount of State school aid paid to the district . . . shall be reduced by an amount equal to the amount of the scholarship awarded to the scholarship student.”).

[30] Editorial, N.J. Democrats Must Not Block Opportunity Scholarship Act, STAR-LEDGER, Jan. 1, 2012,  http://blog.nj.com/njv_editorial_page/2012/01/nj_democrats_must_not_block_op.html.

[31] N.J. CONST. art. VIII, § 4, ¶ 1.

[32] See History of Funding Equity, N.J. DEP'T OF EDUC.,  http://www.state.nj.us/education/archive/abbotts/chrono/ (last visited Mar. 25, 2013) (listing significant New Jersey Supreme Court decisions regarding education funding equity).

[33] 303 A.2d 273 (N.J. 1973).

[34] See id. at 295 (“[I]t is even more difficult to understand how the tax burden can be left to local initiative with any hope that statewide equality of educational opportunity will emerge.”). Although the state was providing aid to poorer districts the court explained that the amount was “grossly outdated.” Id. at 296.  The court went on to show that the current funding plan did not provide the “level of educational opportunity” required by the state constitution for children living in poorer areas. Id. at 297.

[35] See Abbott v. Burke (Abbott II), 575 A.2d 359, 363 (N.J. 1990) (mandating increased funding for poorer districts). The court explained that poorer urban districts “cannot depend on the ability of local school districts to tax” and that the level of funding must “be adequate to provide for the special educational needs of these poorer urban districts in order to redress their extreme disadvantages.” Idsee also Abbott Decisions, EDUC. LAW CTR., http://www.edlawcenter.org/cases/abbott-v-burke/abbott-decisions.html (last visited Mar. 25, 2013 5:03 PM) (listing Abbott decisions).

[36] Abbott II, 575 A.2d at 387.

[37] See generally Abbott v. Burke (Abbott III), 643 A.2d 575 (N.J. 1994); Abbott v. Burke (Abbott IV), 693 A.2d 417 (N.J. 1997) (finding that Comprehensive Educational Improvement and Financing Act unconstitutional). In addition to increased funding, the court observed that Abbott districts needed to provide more social services. See generally Abbott v. Burke (Abbott V), 710 A.2d 450 (N.J. 1998) (finding that special programs and services are required in certain districts); Abbott v. Burke (Abbott VII), 751 A.2d 1032 (N.J. 2000) (“[T]he State is required to fund all the costs of necessary facilities remediation and construction in the Abbott districts.”). Most notably in Abbott V, the court mandated an unprecedented education reform package that included full-day kindergarten, new technology in schools, and programs to help transition students from school to work. See Abbott V at 473. The court went on to hold that schools “have the right, based on demonstrated need, to request and obtain the resources necessary to enable them to provide on-site social services that either are not available within the surrounding community or that cannot effectively and efficiently be provided off-site.” Id. at 511.

[38] See 303 A.2d at 293.

[39] No. C-137-06, 2010 WL 162061, at *1–2 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2009).

[40] See Complaint at 1–2, Crawford v. Davy (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2009) (No. C-137-06), available at  nje3.org/lawsuit/lawsuitdocuments/complaint.pdf.

[41] See Crawford, 2010 WL 162061, at *2.                               

[42] See id. at *12–13.

[43] See id.

[44] See id. at *3.

[45] See Abbott v. Burke (Abbott XXI), 20 A.3d 1018, 1026 (N.J. 2011) (asserting SFRA needed to be funded adequately); but see Looking Back, Looking Forward: Litigation Update, EDUC. JUSTICE,  http://www.educationjustice.org/newsletters/nlej_iss14_art4_detail_LitigationUpdate.htm (last visited Apr. 4, 2013) (noting that Crawford left door open for future voucher challenges in New Jersey).

[46] See N.J. STAT. ANN. §18A:8-1 (West, Westlaw through L.2013, c.84 and J.R. No. 9) (“Each municipality shall be a separate local school district except as otherwise provided in this chapter and except that each incorporated village shall remain a part of the district in which it is situated at the time of its incorporation.”).

[47] See NJ LEFT BEHIND, Chris Cerf's "Perverse Accountability Regime" (Mar. 15, 2013),  http://njleftbehind.blogspot.com/2013/03/chris-cerfs-perverse-accountability.html (criticizing exclusionary system of public education). “The only way to get your kid into NJ’s top schools is to live within district boundaries or . . . live within county boundaries. That’s . . . an exclusionary system that bases access on local residency.” Id.

[48] S. Burlington Cnty. N.A.A.C.P. v. Mount Laurel Twp., 336 A.2d 713, 731 (N.J. 1975) (emphasis added).

[49] 336 A.2d at 732.

[50] Id. at 174 (emphasis added).

[51] See id. (“[A municipality] cannot foreclose the opportunity of the classes of people mentioned for low and moderate income housing and in its regulations must affirmatively afford that opportunity, at least to the extent of the municipality's fair share of the present and prospective regional need therefor.”).

[52] See id. at 171–72 (observing self-interested behavior of local municipalities).

[53] John M. Payne, Reconstructing the Constitutional Theory of Mount Laurel II, 3 WASH. U. J.L. & POL'Y 555, 558–60 (2000).

[54] See N.J. STAT. ANN. §18A:8-1 (West, Westlaw through L.2013, c.84 and J.R. No. 9).

[55] See Mount Laurel, 336 A.2d at 725 (“[A] zoning enactment which is contrary to the general welfare is invalid.”).

[56] See ASSEMB. TASK FORCE ON SCH. DIST. REGIONALIZATION, FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS, 208th Legis., at 17–18 (1999), available at  http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/legislativepub/reports/school.pdf (discussing benefits of regionalized public school system).

[57] See generally Crawford, 2010 WL 162061, at *12.

[58] See Education Funding Report, supra note 8, at 23–27 (discussing connection between funding and academic performance).

[59] See Goodwin Liu & William L. Taylor, School Choice to Achieve Desegregation, 74 FORDHAM L. REV. 791, 792–93 (2005); see also Ryan & Heise, supra note 4 (positing that staunch local control in suburban districts excludes low-income students residing in inner-cities).

[60] See Ryan & Heise, supra note 4, at 2105 (“[S]tudy after study confirms that the social composition of the student body is more highly related to achievement, independent of the student's own social background, than is any other school factor.”). Students in high or middle-income districts are often raised in environments with high expectations for academic success in contrast to impoverished districts wherein “expectations and motivations tend to be fairly depressed.” See id. School cultures also have a “contagious” effect on students, as the student body will generally conform to the majority culture. See id.

[61] See Bob Braun, Bringing N.J. Schools’ Racial Segregation Into Open, NJ.COM (May 19, 2011, 8:47 AM),  http://blog.nj.com/njv_bob_braun/2011/05/braun_bringing_nj_schools_raci.html (“New Jersey has one of the most segregated school systems in the country." (quoting David Sciarra, director of the Education Law Center)). The racial isolation in Essex County is particularly severe:

Of the 39,000 students in Newark, more than 36,000 are black and Latino. In Millburn, fewer than 200 of its 4,000 students are black and Latino. In Orange, 12 of 4,400 students are white; in Fairfield, 660 students are white, 33 are Latino and one is black.

Id. Newark and Orange are target districts under the OSA. See Opportunity Scholarship Act § 3.

[62] See Ryan & Heise, supra note 4, at 2105 (“Indeed, in poor inner-city schools, researchers have found that the dominant school culture often actively denigrates academic success, associating success in school with ‘acting white.’”); see also KTAYANA MELIC, MaCALSTER COLL., BLOCKING VIOLENCE AT THE DOOR: IS EDUCATION IN URBAN INNER CITY SCHOOLS IN DANGER OR ENDANGERING? 3-5 (2005), available at http://www.macalester.edu/educationreform/publicintellectualessay/KatyanaM.pdf (discussing culture of violence in urban schools).

[63] See Ryan & Heise, supra note 4, at 2105 (“Presented with few positive role models and surrounded by poverty and despair, poorer students have little reason to expect that hard work in school could lead to success afterward . . . . “).

[64] See id. at 2111; see also John C. Eastman, Reply, The Magic of Vouchers is No Sleight of Hand: A Reply to Steven K. Green, 39 WILLIAMETTE L. REV. 195, 214 (2003) (noting that Catholic schools in inner cities achieve higher test scores).

[65] See Press Release, N.J. Sen. Democrats, Lesniak Opportunity Scholarships Act Advances (Jan 20, 2011),  http://www.njsendems.com/release.asp?rid=3764 (“If [the OSA] were in place ten years ago, the Opportunity Scholarship Act would have prevented most of the private school closings that now cost our taxpayers $600-800 million a year.”).

[66] See EDUCATION FUNDING REPORT, supra note 8, at 16. New Jersey’s poorest districts spent an average of “$18,850 per-student . . . $3,100 more than the State’s wealthiest districts.” Id. at 11–12. 

[67] See id. at 7.

[68] See Opportunity Scholarship Act § 6 (explaining that elementary schools accepting OSA scholarships must accept the $6,000 as payment for student’s full tuition).

[69] See Vicki E. Alger, Freeing Students from Failing Schools in New Jersey, INDEP. WOMEN'S FORUM (May 20, 2012), http://iwf.org/blog/2787946/ (explaining how the OSA would increase per pupil revenue in target districts). 

[70] See Douglas K. Batchelder & George V. Corwell, The Facts are these, OSA Makes Sense, NJ SPOTLIGHT (Feb. 23, 2011),  http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/11/0223/1415/ (“The fact is the $360 million dollars is only one-third of 1 percent of what is expended on public schools . . . .”).

[71] See Opportunity Scholarship Act § 4 (providing aggregate amount of OSA scholarships).

[72] See NEWARK PUB. SCHS., FY12–13 BUDGET HEARING 10 (2012), available at www.nps.k12.nj.us/cms/lib7/NJ01001467/Centricity/Domain/1/BUDGET_HEARINGS_AS_OF_MARCH_22_final.pdf.

[73] See Benefits of the New Opportunity Scholarship Act: S-1872 (Lesniak/Kean) and A-2810 (Fuentes/DeCroce), LATINO LEADERSHIP ALLIANCE OF N.J., http://llanj.org /announcements/benefits-new-opportunity-scholarship-act-s-1872-lesniakkean-and-2810-fuentesdecroce/01 (last visited Apr. 10, 2013).

[74] See generally Matthew Ladner, FRIEDMAN FOUND. FOR EDUC. CHOICE, LESSONS FOR OHIO FROM FLORIDA'S K-12 EDUCATION REVOLUTION (2011), http://scohio.org/PDF/LessonsForOhio.pdf (observing positive results of similar voucher program in Florida).

[75] See generally Patrick Walsh, Effects of School Choice on the Margin: The Cream is Already Skimmed, 28 ECONS. OF EDUC. REV. 227 (2009), available at  http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0272775708000757 (asserting that effects of skimming are overestimated); see also AP, NJ High Schools with the Highest Dropout Rates, 6ABC.COM (Oct. 29, 2007), http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/local &id=5732182 (listing New Jersey schools that have drop-out rates over sixty percent).

[76] See generally Molly Moynihan, Note, Changing A Failing Promotional Standard: A Close Look at the Newark Public Schools District’s Hidden Social Promotion Policy, 33 SETON HALL LEGIS. J. 609 (2009) (discussing impact of low expectations on educational performance in Newark, New Jersey).

[77] See Questions & Answers About the Opportunity Scholarship Act, WE CAN DO BETTER,  http://www.wecandobetternewjersey.org/qa.html (last visited Apr. 4, 2013) (criticizing argument of not passing OSA because it does not help all students).

[78] EDUC. LAW CTR., THE RIGHT TO SPECIAL EDUCATION IN NEW JERSEY: A GUIDE FOR ADVOCATES 54 (2008),  http://www.edlawcenter.org/assets/files/pdfs/publications/Rights_SpecialEducation_Guide.pdf (explaining how school districts are still required to locate and evaluate all children with disabilities that are attending private schools).

[79] See generally id. (discussing regulations that govern provision of special education in public schools).

[80] See Opportunity Scholarship Act § 6 (requiring notification of parents regarding special education).

[81] See generally MATTHEW M. CHINGOS & PAUL E. PETERSON, THE EFFECTS OF SCHOOL VOUCHERS ON COLLEGE ENROLLMENT: EXPERIMENTAL EVIDENCE FROM NEW YORK CITY (2012), available at http://www.hks.harvard.edu/pepg/PDF/Impacts_of_School_Vouchers_FINAL.pdf (analyzing New York’s voucher program).

[82] See id. at 12-16.

[83] See Matthew M. Chingos & Paul E. Peterson, A Generation of School-Voucher Success, WALL ST. J., Aug. 23, 2012, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444184704577585582150808386.html (explaining that minority students in “New York were 24% more likely to attend college if they won a scholarship to attend private school.”).

[84] See EDUCATION FUNDING REPORT, supra note 8, at 28-48.

[85] See Opportunity Scholarship Act § 5 (“The board shall . . . publicize the pilot program to the parents and guardians of children who are enrolled in a chronically failing school . . . .”).