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Lawmakers proceed with $1B vo-tech schools, community colleges bonds

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Lawmakers want to push ahead with putting a ballot measure before voters that would allow the state to issue $1 billion in bonds to fund school upgrades at New Jersey's community colleges and vocational-technical high schools, as well as security upgrades at K-12 schools.

The measure, Senate Bill 2293, dubbed the “Securing Our Children's Future Bond Act” and backed by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, and Senator Steven Oroho, R-24th District, is scheduled for a final vote Monday morning in the Assembly and Senate.

The money would be used toward buildings, equipment and facilities upgrades, security upgrades at K-12 schools and school district water infrastructure improvement projects.

Sweeney said that with the added money, vo-tech schools and community colleges would be able to expand the number and scope of programs they offer students, in order to accommodate a larger student body.

In order for the state to be able to issue the bonds, voters would have to approve whether the state can move ahead with the plans. Monday is the deadline for any such referendum to be included on the ballot for this November's election.

The state higher education secretary and the commissioners of education and labor would have to develop a process for how to doll out the funds in the form of grants to different schools

“New Jersey businesses face a critical shortage of technical-skilled workers, yet our county vocational-technical schools turn down 15,000 qualified high school students every year because of a lack of adequate facilities,” Sweeney said. “This bond issue is an investment in our future. This skilled worker shortage is one of the most critical factors stunting our state’s economic growth, and we need to address it.”

Lawmakers were initially seeking $500 million of bonds to finance facility upgrades, but tacked on the other $500 million in bonds in March to beef up school security, which Sweeney said was in response to the devastating Parkland, FL School shooting.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our schoolchildren,” Sweeney said.

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Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel Munoz covers politics and state government for NJBIZ. You can contact him at dmunoz@njbiz.com.

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