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President Obama was in Columbus, OH this week, talking about funding for education. Just by coincidence, so was I.
NPP, along with Peace Action, sponsored the first of our “Move the Money” training sessions where we’re gathering local activists to help them integrate information about the federal budget into the work they’re doing. We were joined by representatives of groups in the Columbus area working on health care reform, economic justice, funding for human needs programs, cutting Pentagon spending, and preserving the environment, among other issues.
Not surprisingly, the #1 most important issue on the minds of everyone I met was jobs. Unemployment in Ohio, according to the latest figures by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is roughly 7.2 percent – below the national average of 8.3 percent. In fact, Ohio has fared better than many states – the state’s unemployment rate is down 1.7 percent from a year ago. Yet so many people have been out of work for so long – years in some cases – that there is a clear sense of frustration that our elected officials in Washington aren’t doing enough to solve the problem.
In the longer term, however, the attention of Ohioans is focused on education as the solution to a broad range of serious challenges. From solving problems like unemployment and economic and racial inequity to the practical problem of achieving a better understanding of the critical issues surrounding the federal budget and the elections, the people I met were unanimous in their belief that access to quality education is the engine for economic growth and social change.
As we reviewed materials like NPP’s Tax Day chart which shows how your tax dollar is spent, there was obvious frustration among participants about the mismatch between their spending priorities and what the government actually spends on things like education, and health care, and the environment, and the military.
And while they recognize that education funding is often a local matter, they are looking to Washington for leadership and support.