I am a proud member and founder of H.E.L.P., which stands for Higher Education Lifts People, a new group comprised of concerned parents and taxpayers from Hooksett. We have a message for the public officials of Manchester, where our children attend the public high schools. It is this: Put children first.
I Googled the word "unity" and found this definition: "The state or quality of being in accord; harmony. Singleness or constancy of purpose or action; continuity." From this day forward a line of unity is drawn in the sand.
Manchester's governing body members have now met with the citizens of Hooksett and Candia and have heard from Manchester residents through the mouthpiece of Citizens for Manchester Schools. City elected officials understand their position with regards to the education of their children and how seriously they take the subject. The line is drawn between supporting the school children in this community or not supporting them. There will be no straddling the line, for if we are to progress forward for the children, we must understand clearly who is opposed to making their education this city's No. 1 priority and who is not.
It is time for the Manchester Board of Alderman and Board of School Committee to take a good, long look at their budgetary positions and school policy positions and ask, "Are these positions making students in this city the No. 1 priority?"
If the answer is no, then do something about it. Parents and taxpayers are looking to them to lead. If they choose not to lead, then groups such as ours, Citizens for Manchester Schools, and Higher Education Lifts People (in Hooksett) - or other citizens - will lead.
We have a simple proposal for city leaders to use with all of the other departments requesting funding from the City of Manchester, for things such as golf course repair, new fire houses, police stations, guaranteed pension benefits (which is not realistic in the 21st century) or any other big-ticket items. For each request, ask, "If we grant all of the funding for this, is it important enough to take money away from educating the children?" Let them go on public record with their answer, and if the answer from the department heads is "yes," then let them defend it.
During a tough economy, it will take all of us working together to make the children our No. 1 priority. It will take concession from all city departments and, yes, even the teachers union. However, we need to make sure that all are providing equal concessions. For larger projects, we can phase in their completion over time, so as not to disrupt the education of our youth.
The way to think of it is simple. If we choose not to invest in our children today, then we need to be prepared to have those same children live in our basements in the future and wait for public assistance. Or we must be prepared for them to move out of the municipalities that did not support them when they needed support the most and stand in the unemployment lines. To be competitive in the 21st century, it takes education, and if that is not our No. 1 economic priority today, the lack of good education will be our downfall when we need those same children as adult taxpayers, contributors to our Social Security and retirement systems, and simply as law-abiding citizens.
I appreciate the thankless jobs public officials do for Manchester citizens. I know that in their hearts they want to do the right thing for the children. My challenge to them now is simply to do it.
You are all cordially invited to please join us at facebook.com/groups/helphooksettstudents/
.John Lyscars, an electrical engineer in Hooksett, is a founder of H.E.L.P. (Higher Education Lifts People). On Monday he addressed the Mancheter Board of School Committee while dressed as one of Santa's elves.