Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wine Train Gets More Investment than Education?

By Sandy Belknap

President Obama held a Town Hall meeting in Nashua this week. 

I appreciated the overall messages that he shared during his speech and Q&A during his hour long visit to Nashua High North.  He talked about more focus on Jobs and Small Business as well as a continued focus on Healthcare Reform.   I was especially glad to hear him acknowledge how 'hard' it is to drive so much CHANGE during such a difficult period for so many people across the country.  And, it was good to hear that he realizes that we ("the people") want our leaders in Washington "to worry less about their jobs and more about [our] jobs."   

A few hours after the President's visit, the issue of the multi-million dollar cuts that are needed in Nashua's school system were discussed at a public meeting.  The cuts proposed include teaching jobs.

Ironic how Obama's messages sounded so good in his speech, but then the reality of day-to-day life in Nashua returned quickly after his visit.

Over the past five years, there have been numerous issues with leadership within the Nashua school system, and unfortunately, those issues have resulted in budget deficits requiring cut after cut after cut.  Right now, there is a need to close a gap of over $3 million.

Obama talked about the need to 'invest in innovation' and that we need to focus on education to ensure that the US is not second to any other country in the world.  Great stuff to say in a speech, but the reality is that if we can't invest in our students and schools, then innovation is going to stop.

Then I heard about the story of the Napa Valley Wine Train.  Over $50M in 'Stimulus' money has gone to a project in California to do work on the rails for the Napa Valley Wine Train.  WHAT?!?!  I've been on that train and paid over $100 for that tourist experience.   It was OK, but it's not on the top of my list as far as great experiences in the Napa Valley.

Over 50 million 'stimulus' dollars are going into the Wine Train project.  But, we can't find $3 million to save the jobs of our local teachers?  Isn't education the key tool that will enable us to innovate (and create jobs)?

There is a serious gap in the priorities that are being decided with regard to how 'stimulus' money is being spent.  And in retrospect, the promising speech delivered by the President on Tuesday is now overshadowed with the reality of what is happening day-to-day.

In this case, actions speak much louder than words.


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