President Obama Touts Jobs Bill At Columbus-Area School

Listen to the Story

A school crossing zone. President Obama wants to include $25 billion for school renovations and upgrades as part of his proposed jobs bill.(Photo: Jonathan Ah Kit)
A school crossing zone. President Obama wants to include $25 billion for school renovations and upgrades as part of his proposed jobs bill.(Photo: Jonathan Ah Kit)

President Obama laid out the education portion of his proposed jobs bill at a Columbus high school yesterday afternoon. While a jobs bill would create work for thousands of Ohioans, WOSU reports on one local company which could stand to benefit.

“Ohio if you pass this bill, then right here in this state, tens of thousands of construction workers will have a job again,” Mr. Obama said.

President Obama touted his jobs bill as “one of the most common sense ideas out there.” It proposes spending $25 billion in school modernization projects alone. More than a billion dollars would come to Ohio.

The President visited one of the newly-renovated classrooms at Fort Hayes Arts and Academics High School. Mr. Obama praised the district for the school’s recent upgrades and renovations to the Civil War-era campus. And he noted the restoration created more than 250 jobs.

“You didn’t just repair what was broken, you rebuilt this school for the 21st Century with faster internet and cutting edge technology, and that hasn’t just created a better and safer learning environment for the students, it also created good jobs for construction workers,” he said.

If Congress passes the jobs bill, Columbus City Schools would receive more than $111 million for school repairs and improvements. And Fort Hayes’ success would serve as a backdrop for the bill’s projects.

It’s estimated nearly 13,000 jobs – much of it construction work – would be created in Ohio from the education portion of the bill.

The construction industry has taken a big hit in the down economy. And Gary Montgomery has felt the pinch. Montgomery owns Dynamix Engineering. The company specializes in sustainable engineering projects. And it designed Fort Hayes’ mechanical, electrical and technology systems for the historical buildings. Montgomery said nearly half of Dynamix projects used to be school-based. But lately bond projects are scarce.

“It’s come to a screeching halt. And we’ve been forced to basically market out of state and other market sectors. So, pumping dollars into the school market here would be a huge benefit for us as a business,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery has spent a considerable amount of time in Ohio’s schools. He said their needs vary.

“For some of the lower-wealth districts it’s the school overall, and again, with the market being what it is right now it’s very tough to pass not only an operating levy, but a bond issue to provide the facilities they need. When you take a look at all of the facilities in general there’s a lot that can be done for energy efficiencies,” he noted.

Marja Davis also sees a lot of schools. She’s a Columbus City Schools Sign Language interpreter. Davis said there are both structural and technological needs.

“Since technology is such the “in thing” I think it would be really good to have some new technology for the students. As well as new schools also help the students, you know, new things I think make students more motivated to come to school if they have something to look forward to,” Davis said.

Most everyone else WOSU talked to wanted updated facilities and technology in the classrooms like Jack Burgess from Chillicothe.

“They’re crumbling schools and structures around the state in addition to our bridges and highways that need help,” he said.

But Burgess did not want to leave out the arts and music programs that are all but gone from many school districts.

“We hope as money comes in those can be restored around the state,” Burgess said.

President Obama noted a Pennsylvania school using buckets for drums because the music program had no funds.

“It is unfair to our kids, it undermines our future and it has to stop,” The president said.

Mr. Obama said the jobs bill will provide tax cuts for small businesses who hire new employees and cuts small business payroll taxes in half. He vowed the jobs act will not add to the deficit. And Mr. Obama has said wealthier people will pay more taxes to foot the cost.

“We got to make sure that everybody pays their fair share including the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations,” he said.

Critics of the bill say it is a temporary fix and would fare no better than the first costly stimulus package.

Comments