INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Mike Pence announced an expansive education plan
Tuesday for his second year in office that will include seeking approval
for vouchers for preschool-aged children, extending more state help for
charter schools and paying for teachers to work in low-income school
Pence released more specifics about his education agenda, which forms the
core of his second-year legislative package, but declined again to say how
he will pay for the measures. Communications Director Christy Denault said
the governor will seek authority for the new items this year and negotiate
payment for them during the 2015 budget-writing session.
Preschool vouchers would be offered to any family earning up to 185
percent of the federal poverty level, and could be used to pay for either
public or private programs. Pence would also offer vouchers of up to
$12,000 to pay for teachers to move to low-income schools, public or
private. He's also asking lawmakers to help charter schools by giving them
more flexibility in budgeting and offering more aid to buy or renovate
former public school buildings.
"Our moral obligation as policymakers is similar: to ensure that children
in Indiana are learning in a way that prepares them to succeed in the
future," Pence said in prepared remarks delivered at the site of Indiana's
first capitol, in Corydon.
The Republican governor's education proposals largely build on the
overhaul pushed by former Gov. Mitch Daniels and former Schools
Superintendent Tony Bennett in 2011. But Pence is also adding in dose of
technical training and career preparation building from the work of a
series of workforce development committees established earlier this year.
Education has become a sticking point for Pence through his first year in
office. His ongoing battles with Democratic Schools Superintendent Glenda
Ritz have engulfed State Board of Education meetings. His surprise
creation of a new education agency this past summer spurred accusations
from Ritz that he is trying to undercut her authority.
Pence is likely to find a sympathetic ear to most education proposals from
both the House and Senate, where Republicans hold supermajorities.
Democratic lawmakers did not immediately criticize the governor's ideas
Tuesday and said they would like to find some common ground with him,
potentially on early childhood education.
"I think there are certainly some areas we can work together on," said
state Rep. Kreg Battles, D-Vincennes, who serves on the House Education
Battles, who teaches chemistry at Lincoln High School in Vincennes,
questioned whether the education changes Pence is building are working as
well as the governor says.
The education proposals come in addition to the governor's call to
eliminate the business personal property tax, increase road-funding and
make a series of other changes he says will help the state economy.
However, ambitious legislation of any type could find a tough row through
the General Assembly during an already-abbreviated 2014 session expected
to be dominated by the marriage amendment fight.
Many of Pence's education measures mirror items from a preliminary policy
memo Ritz released last week. The memo, drafted by Pence education
staffers, pondered ways to strip Ritz of her power over the State Board of
Education, but Pence said he dismissed the idea when it was brought to
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, has repeatedly said he will
block any legislation stripping Ritz of power. But he has also said
lawmakers might be forced to find a way to mediate between the two if the