Senate passes VoTech bill


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The New Jersey State Senate has passed the Career and Technical Education and Security Bond Act sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester), Senator Steve Oroho (R-Morris, Sussex, Warren) and Senator Anthony Bucco (R-Morris and Somerset) that would provide funding for Vo-Tech expansion, school security, and clean water protection.

“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.”

The bipartisan legislation would provide $400 million in grants to county vocational-technical school districts, $450 million for school security grants, $50 million for county college career and technical education grants, and $100 million for school water infrastructure grants. The bill would seek voter approval for a plan to invest in and protect New Jersey’s schools and students.

“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.”

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.

“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 Senators added that legislation would additionally invest in critical school water infrastructure that would protect students from lead.

Recent reports show that more than 300 New Jersey schools have found “levels of lead in at least one drinking-water outlet.”

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.



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