With strong support from legislators from both parties, the bond act to expand career and technical education opportunities and build New Jersey’s future workforce was approved by the New Jersey Assembly by a 76-0 vote on Thursday, June 21.
The Securing our Children’s Future Bond Act seeks voter approval for $450 million in bond funds to expand career and technical education opportunities at county vocational-technical schools and county colleges.
It also includes $450 million to upgrade security and student safety measures at New Jersey schools, and $100 million for school district water infrastructure improvements.
“This will be a game-changer for workforce development in our state,” said Judy Savage, the executive director of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools. “It is a strategic investment in New Jersey’s future.”
The bond money is for capital expenditures to expand and equip the expensive facilities needed to provide the high-demand, highly-technical education programs designed to address New Jersey’s skills gap in key industries.
The proposal will support new and expanded opportunities in fields like global logistics and distribution, auto technology, manufacturing, aviation and drone technology, technical health care, welding, construction, and green energy in order to align them with industry advances and attract more people into these well-paying careers.
Recommended by the Legislature’s bi-partisan Manufacturing Caucus, the bill was strongly supported by major statewide business and policy organizations, including the NJ Business & Industry Association, the NJ State Chamber of Commerce, the NJ Manufacturing Extension Program, the NJ Builders’ Association, the NJ Utilities Association and the NJ Association of Counties.
“It’s cost-effective to invest in these expensive programs at the county level, so that all interested high school and adult students can have access to these opportunities. It’s the perfect example of what a shared service should be,” Savage said.
County vocational-technical schools and county colleges are experiencing increased employer, student and parent demand for high-quality programs that lead to careers that require technical certifications and post-secondary education, but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree.
“A key requirement for programs created with the bond act money is that they provide high school and adult students career pathways that allow them to progress from industry certifications to career-focused degrees,” Savage said.
For projects approved for funding, counties would pay 25 percent of the costs, with the remaining 75 percent funded by the bond act.
The bill, A3902/S2293, now heads back to the Senate for concurrence with amendments made during the Assembly consideration process. It is expected to be approved by the Senate before the end of the 2018-2019 fiscal year on June 30.
If signed by Governor Murphy, the bill will place the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act on the ballot in the November 2018 general election.
Prime sponsors of the Assembly bill are Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Mercer), Assembly Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Deputy Speaker Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden).
Co-sponsors include Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-Monmouth), Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union), Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez (D-Hudson), Assemblyman Pedro Mejia (D-Hudson), Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer), Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak (D-Middlesex), Assemblyman Harold Wirths (R-Sussex/Morris/Warren), Assemblywoman Carol Murphy (D-Burlington), Assemblyman Edward H. Thompson (R-Monmouth), Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-Monmouth), Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Monmouth) and Assemblyman Parker Space (R-Susses/Morris/Warren).
The Senate bill, S2293, championed by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester), was approved by a vote of 36-1 on April 12. Other sponsors include Senators Steve Oroho (R-Sussex) and Anthony Bucco (R-Morris), and co-sponsors Senators Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex) and Shirley Turner (D-Mercer).