NEWARK, NJ – There’s a vote on Election Day thats going to hit home maybe more than any other vote – congessional or otherwise – that day.
Voters will decide on the $500 million “Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act” that’s supposed to boost school security, improve water safety and and expand programs at community colleges and vocaional schools. The referendum will be held on Election day, Nov. 6.
Though lawmakers haven’t provided specifics on how the money will be spent, they did say the school security portion of the legislaton was inspired by the mass shootings in Parkland, Fla. earlier this year.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of our schoolchildren,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney. “The horror of school shootings from Newtown, Ct. in 2012 to Parkland, Fla. 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.”
Lead also continues to be a problem in some water systems. Newark officials recently kicked off a massive effort to distribute lead water filters to residents after a recent study revealed that corrosion control is “no longer effective” in some parts of the city’s water network. Read more: Newark Hands Out Thousands Of Lead Water Filters After Lawsuit
The plan’s created debate within the Murphy administration and among lawmakers, many of whom wanted more money.
Lawmakers revised the plan after Gov. Phil Murphy initially vetoed it. Murphy effectively cut what was a $1 billion plan in half, saying the state wasn’t ready to add that much debt.
In the final plan, Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Morris said Murphy cut the school security funding in a way that is a “total lapse in judgment.”
“If the governor is so concerned about keeping our schools safe from gun violence, then I question why he would mandate such a drastic cut in school security,” Bucco said.
The bipartisan legislation, S-2293, originally authorized $1 billion in general obligation bonds to provide grants for vo-tech expansion, school security projects, and school district water infrastructure. The law authorized a public referendum in the upcoming November election.
Murphy’s veto cut the vo-tech school expansion and school security portion from $800 million to $350 million, Bucco said.
“We must guarantee that all New Jersey schools are safe and welcoming places, where students can reach their dreams, and where teachers can inspire them without fear,” Bucco said. “Governor Murphy’s failure to fully-fund school security places students, teachers, and our local communities in harm’s way. I am disappointed to see Governor Murphy pass the buck on this one.”
Others were more complimentary. Sen. Steven Oroho, R-Sussex, Warren, Morris, said New Jersey’s county vo-tech schools have been forced to turn away about 17,000 students each year.
“The Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act will give more students the opportunity to access the training they need to succeed in New Jersey’s rapidly-evolving workforce – something our top-quality vo-tech programs are designed to do,” Oroho said.
Oroho said the money will allow county vocational-technical school districts and county colleges to upgrade facilities to meet the needs of technical education programs as well as improved school security and updated school water infrastructure.
“While I would have preferred the original legislation as passed by the Legislature, I believe the ballot question still represents a solid investment in our children’s future and I am confident the voters will view it that way,” Oroho concluded.