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The Murphy administration announced Friday the availability of grant applications for school security, water infrastructure improvements, and enhancement of career and technical education in county vocational-technical school districts and county colleges in New Jersey.

The grants are supported by $500 million in bonds authorized by the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act (Act) approved by New Jersey voters in November 2018.

“Investing in our students’ future is an essential part of building a stronger and fairer New Jersey,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement. “From critical school security measures to necessary career and technical education training, this new funding will further strengthen our efforts to ensure that students across our state are equipped with the tools and support they need to succeed.”

The Bond Act  was derived from bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Steven Oroho and Senate President Steve Sweeney. It was also championed by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association to address a critical skills gap and strengthen the workforce pipeline in New Jersey.

“We are pleased to see the first steps taken through these grant applications,” NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka said. “New Jersey’s skills gap leaves good-paying jobs unfilled. At the same time, we have also seen the growing demand for career and technical education far exceed the space available for interested students.

“These bonds will help bridge that disconnect and they represent a crucial investment for New Jersey,” Siekerka said.

“It’s been nearly two years since voters approved our proposal to invest $500 million in important school projects across New Jersey,” Oroho said in a statement. “While I wish the Murphy administration had the grant program up and running sooner, I’m glad this funding is finally being made available to improve school security, water infrastructure, and career and technical education.”

The Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act funding includes $275 million for CTE Programs in county Vocational-Technical School Districts, and another $50 million in CTE Programs in county colleges. It also consists of $100 million for water infrastructure and $75 million for school security.

More information on the grant applications, including timelines, eligibility requirements, and application materials, are available at the state Department of Education’s (DOE) website and the website of the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education.

The Act stipulates that, when the grant review process is complete, the Department of Education and the Office of Secretary of Higher Education will present a list of eligible projects to the Legislature for each of the funding categories. The Legislature must approve the projects and appropriate funds from the bonds issued.

CTE projects could begin as early as the summer of 2021, barring unforeseen obstacles or delays. Projects for security and water infrastructure could begin sooner, and the Act allows for reimbursement of eligible projects dating back to 2016.