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Address Skills Before Wages

The Importance of Building a Bridge Between New Jersey Businesses and Education

By Tyler Seville | The Save Jersey Blog

The Ben Franklin BridgeThe quality of entry-level employees entering the workforce continues to be a challenge for employers in New Jersey, Save Jerseyans. While the state has one of the top education systems in the nation, students frequently lack essential math and verbal skills, which are necessary for future employment.

Education is a multi-billion-dollar undertaking in New Jersey. According to Census Data, on average, it costs $18,083 to educate a public school student, compared to the national average of $12,411. And in Fiscal Year 2011- 2012, the state received a total of $25.3 billion in revenues, 58% coming from local taxes.

Education in general is a proven benefit to business owners. Individuals, who are sufficiently educated, are not only more likely to be employed, but more productive within the workplace. Therefore it is easy to understand that an investment in education means millions, if not billions, of private and public sector savings down the road.

However, many have expressed concerns that while academic skills are critical, the existing college-focused curriculum does not adequately prepare students to succeed in the workplace or even for higher learning.

Education and business leaders alike have witnessed the difficulty in finding young adults with essential career readiness skills, such as critical thinking, problem-solving and verbal communication. In addition, many believe existing students also lack other “soft skills” like teamwork, punctuality and the ability to follow directions.

From 2002 to 2012, New Jersey K-12 public education spending has gone up almost 60%. Of the $14.7 billion in local funding, property taxes were $12.4 billion of the schools local revenue in FY 2011-2012.

In fact, property tax revenue is the single largest revenue source for schools, which has grown over 20% since 2006.

From a businesses’ perceptive, these taxes directly impact the cost of doing business in New Jersey. In Fiscal Year 2012-2013, New Jersey businesses paid an estimated $20.8 billion in state and local taxes. It is also estimated that businesses in New Jersey pay about 40% of state taxes and 37% of local taxes. It’s estimated that at least $9 billion of public school revenue came from businesses in 2012.

Yet at the end of the day, these tax revenues are managed and overseen by a local board of education, elected by the voters. Ultimately, a board’s responsibilities are to represent the community’s educational goals as well as their financial interests.

However if voters do not share their values, elected officials are likely to do what they believe is “right.” Businesses, and employers alike, should take a greater interest in local politics and how their decisions help shape future employees. The stakes couldn’t possibly be any higher.

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