An editorial from the Times of Trenton: Fate of $500 million in school funding in hands of voters

October 15th, 2018

Read the editorial on the Times of Trenton web site

The Garden State’s school children are hoping you’ll have the wisdom to say “yes” to Public Question 1 when you head to the polls next month for the 2018 mid-term elections.

We hope so, too.

Voters who approve the ballot issue will also be saying “yes” to funding water infrastructure projects for our schools, to beefing up school security, and to giving county vocational schools and county colleges access to important grants for technical training.

If passed, the act will authorize the state to issue $500 million in bonds whose sale would provide vital opportunities to schools, school districts, county vocational school districts and county colleges.

A large percentage of the proceeds would focus on building and equipping facilities geared to technical education programs in the state – a need pointed out dramatically in a recent report commissioned by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.

Noting that the state is losing millennials at a dismaying clip, researchers suggested several antidotes for the so-called “brain drain.”  One would be expanding vocational-technical facilities that would turn out a more highly skilled – and therefore employable – workforce.

In addition, a considerable chunk of the money involved in the public question would go to upgrading water systems in our schools, as well as enhancing security for kindergarten through grade 12.

From Sandy Hook to Parkland, images of school children covered in blood and running for cover haunt our days and nights. Protecting our youngsters and their teachers from harm should be – must be – our top priority.

Historically, voters have been overwhelmingly receptive to statewide issues such as these.

A total of 44 such questions made their way onto the ballot between 1995 and 2017; a whopping 91-percent of them (40) won approval.

The lone exception was a $450 million bond issue in 2007 to fund stem cell research at state universities, according to the website Ballotpedia.org.

Last year, for example, voters favored a plan to dedicate state revenue from settlements in environmental contamination lawsuits toward environmental projects.  They also OK’d $125 million in bonds to provide grants to enrich our public libraries.

It’s heartening that almost two dozen lawmakers from both parties and both chambers of the Legislature stepped forward to sponsor this year’s bond issue.

While the focus in the past few tumultuous months has been on choosing next year’s crop of elected officials, we urge you to take a few minutes to read over your sample ballot and get a sense of what this question is all about.

And then mark the box that will help secure our children’s future in the coming decades.

Reminder: The deadline for registering to vote is Oct. 16. Contact your local election official to find out how.

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