A New Jersey ballot question on issuing $500 million in bonds, primarily for expanding vocational-technical programs and installing security measures at school buildings, was approved by voters Tuesday.
The "Securing Our Children's Future Bond Act" was approved with 52 percent of the ballots cast in favor of the measure.
The bond will also support water infrastructure projects in school districts, which have been required by the state to test their water for lead since 2016.
Proponents of the question, which passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, contended the state needed to invest in its county vocational-technical schools to serve more students and meet the needs of the state's employers. About 33,000 students are enrolled at the schools, which turned away 17,000 applicants last year due to lack of capacity, advocates said.
School officials also said districts need financing for security upgrades, which they described as difficult to pay for otherwise because the state imposes a 2 percent cap on property-tax increases.
The $500 million will be split several ways. The bulk — $350 million — is designated for grants to county vocational-technical schools and to school districts for security projects, which could include alarms and silent security systems.
An additional $100 million will go to school districts for water infrastructure projects, and the remaining $50 million to county colleges to expand vocational technical programs.
The bond measure was previously approved by lawmakers to be $1 billion, but Gov. Murphy halved it in a conditional veto, citing concern about the state's debt level.
Some advocates objected to the measure, arguing that its focus on the county vocational schools ignored broader repair and construction needs in districts across the state. "Financing projects only for a very small subset of New Jersey students misses the mark," David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, wrote in a recent op-ed.
County vocational-technical schools, school districts, and county colleges will have to apply for funding from the bond measure. The state education commissioner and other officials are tasked with developing procedures for awarding grants for projects, which lawmakers will get to review before their approval.