The Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act, which seeks voter approval for an investment in 21st century career and technical education facilities to enhance the state’s workforce and respond to industry needs for technically-trained employees, was given final legislative approval today by the Senate and Assembly and signed by Governor Phil Murphy.
The Governor had conditionally-vetoed the bill, S-2293, reducing the amount of the original referendum proposal to $350 million for county vocational-technical school capital projects and school security upgrades. Fifty million allocated for technical education capital projects at county colleges and $100 million for school district water infrastructure improvements, such as lead abatement, remained part of the legislation.
Both houses of the Legislature held unusual late-summer sessions to vote to concur with the Governor’s changes because August 28 is the deadline for enactment in order for the bond act to be on the November 6 general election ballot as a public question.
“Voter approval of this bond act will be a game-changer for workforce development in our state,” said Judy Savage, executive director of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools. “It’s a strategic investment in New Jersey’s future.
“We appreciate the Legislature’s commitment to return to Trenton for today’s vote. Clearly, they recognize how important this funding will be to our state’s economy, New Jersey employers and the young people who will be preparing for well-paying technical careers,” she said.
News coverage of this story
WBGO Radio: Murphy Conditionally Vetoes Education Bond Act
NJBIZ Magazine: Murphy approves revised vo-tech, community college bond bill
TAPinto.net: Legislature Passes Oroho’s Bipartisan ‘Securing our Children’s Future’ Bond Act
Sponsored by legislators of both parties, the original Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act, which sought voter approval for $1 billion for technical education, school security and water infrastructure improvements, was approved by the Senate (37-1) and Assembly (76-0) earlier this year.
Expansion of career and technical education opportunities was also a priority recommendation of the Legislature’s bi-partisan Manufacturing Caucus.
The bill authorizing the bond act 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.
If approved by the voters in November, the career and technical education bond money will be used for capital expenditures to expand and equip specialized county vocational-technical school facilities to provide high-demand, technical education programs that address New Jersey’s skills gap in key industries.
The proposal will support new and expanded opportunities in fields like transportation and logistics, manufacturing, aviation and drone technology, health care technology, construction, and clean energy to align them with industry advances and prepare more young people for these well-paying careers.
County vocational-technical school districts are experiencing increased employer, student and parent demand for high school career and technical education programs. Enrollment has grown by 34% since 2000, and the schools cannot meet the growing demand due to lack of capacity.
Last year 17,000 career-focused students were unable to be admitted, at a time when many New Jersey employers are deeply concerned by their inability to fill jobs that require high-level technical skills.
Counties would pay 25 percent of the cost of projects approved for funding, with the remaining 75 percent funded by the bond act.
“Investing in these expensive programs at the county level gives access to high school and adult students countywide. It’s the perfect example of a cost-effective shared service,” Savage said.
The bond act was proposed by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester). Other Senate sponsors include Senators Steve Oroho (R-Sussex) and Anthony Bucco (R-Morris), and co-sponsors Senators Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer) and Shirley Turner (D-Mercer).
The prime sponsors in the Assembly 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), 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-Sussex).