Measure Would Provide $1 Billion for Job Training, School Security
TRENTON – The Senate today voted to approve legislation that would seek voter approval for a plan to make significant investments in the vocational-technical education programs that meet critical job training needs and provide grants to improve school security across the state. The vote was 36-1.
Sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester), Senator Steve Oroho (R-Sussex) and Senator Anthony Bucco (R-Morris) the Career and Technical Education and Security Bond Act (S-2293) would provide $450 million in grants to county vocational-technical school districts, $500 million for school security grants, and $50 million for county college career and technical education grants. The bill was revised today to increase school security funds from $250 to $500 million.
“New Jersey businesses face a critical shortage of technical-skilled workers, yet our county vocational-technical schools turn away 15,000 qualified high school students every year because of a lack of adequate facilities,” said Senator Sweeney. “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.”
“Our county vocational schools are currently unable to meet the needs of students and employers alike,” Oroho, a member of the bipartisan Senate Manufacturing Caucus said. “The overwhelming demand for these programs proves that many employers are actively looking for job candidates with technical training. With proper funding, I am confident that our County Vo-Tech schools will continue to create pathways to long-term employment for countless New Jersey residents.”
Sweeney said the bond issue would meet that need by providing priority in the grant process to county vocational-technical schools and county colleges that offer “stackable credential programs” that enable students to graduate with a recognized industry credential, and to vocational-technical schools and county colleges that enter into partnerships to provide joint career and technical education programs.
Priority will also be given to projects in which schools partner directly with employers to provide specific technical education and training for current or potential employees. The county vocational-technical schools and county colleges would pay for 25 percent of the cost of technical education grant projects.
The tragic school shootings in Parkland, Florida, and the gun violence in other schools prompted the legislators to add school security grants to the legislation.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of our schoolchildren,” said Senator Sweeney. “The horror of school shootings from Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012 to Parkland, Florida, last month makes it clear that we need to do everything we can to make our schools safe, and that includes improving the security of our school buildings.”
“For years, I have worked with my colleagues on a bipartisan basis to find the best way to provide security for our schools,” Senator Bucco, who sponsored the 2016 law creating a special class of law enforcement officers to protect New Jersey schools, said. “Creating comprehensive school security programs is one of the most critical ways we can safeguard our students, our teachers, and our communities from outside threats. I am proud to work with Senate President Sweeney and Senator Oroho on this lifesaving legislation.”
The bill would require the Commissioner of Education to develop procedures and criteria for the evaluation and administration of school facility security grants. It would not require schools to provide matching funds.