I think we should establish a "People Connect Program" that rewards companies that offer high-speed Internet access services to underserved, low-income customers by allowing these companies to write off the cost of this service. The government should enlist the help of private/public partnerships to devise creative and successful solutions to the lack of access to information technology. In many places, cities and towns are working with businesses that have experience providing high-speed Internet services to share the cost of building and improving that service. Where companies are unwilling to build information infrastructure, the federal government can support towns through government-backed loans or by issuing bonds with a low interest rate.This is a practical, free-market alternative to plans for ineffectual municipally-owned wi-fi in major cities. In my hometown, which is much easier to get to than Inez and has a higher population, high-speed internet only became available in the past 3 years. I would still venture to say that a large number of people in my community still have dial-up. In a community like Inez, where 37% of families were below the poverty line, this program will certainly help increase the flow of information and jobs to the area.
Rural areas often struggle to attract young highly qualified and motivated new teachers. At the same time, we make it very difficult for Americans with exceptional skills for teaching to enter the field of education through non-traditional means. These are often people who would like nothing better than to take advantage of the quiet beauty and traditional values that are the foundation of rural America. But the path to teaching is often made up of more barriers than gateways. You can be a Nobel Laureate and not qualify to teach in most public schools today. The next president should aggressively support state and national initiatives that attract exceptionally qualified candidates into teaching and that provide certification based on the candidates' demonstrated knowledge of the subjects they will teach, as well as their knowledge of how to teach. Terrific organizations like Teach for America attract the very best young college graduates from all disciplines to enter the teaching profession. The Troops to Teachers program takes advantage of the sense of heightened responsibility and duty that military veterans were taught in the discipline of the armed forces, and which makes many of them excellent candidates to impart those virtues to our children, and help them see the value of learning as a means to self-improvement.If my time in an Eastern Kentucky public school taught me anything, it's that there is a need for good teachers in the area. I had many that were excellent, but just as many that spend most of the class debating various NASCAR-themed topics with the students.
Not to knock Inez or Martin County, but if someone wants to show up in a town of 466 people and spend their life there as a teacher, there should be few barriers in their way.
Before I take your questions and ask you a few of my own, which is why I came here today, I want to close by saying that if I am president, I will not forget that the decisions I make will affect, for good or ill, your ability to make decisions for your families. I will not forget my responsibilities to every American community. I will not offer talk as a substitute for action. I will not make promises I intend to forget. And I will not make this my last visit to Inez. If I'm elected, I will come back here in the course of my administration; hold another townhall meeting, and invite you to hold me accountable for the decisions I have made and the promises I have sworn to keep.All I can say is, if Sen. McCain is elected, he better make sure that he keeps this promise. Small town people don't forget statements like this.