INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A new state agency will try to make public education
better meet the needs of employers, Gov. Mike Pence said Friday, a move
Indiana’s top public education official said was never mentioned to her.
Pence signed an executive order Friday forming the Center for Education and
Career Innovation, which he said will work to align education and career and
workforce training in order to better prepare students for future careers
and provide employers with skilled workers.
“Today, one in six people in Indiana lack a high school diploma or
equivalency. One in three lack post-secondary skills, which are increasingly
in demand. And our state’s unemployment hovers at a stubborn 8 percent-plus
while employers tell us good paying jobs are going unfilled,” Pence said in
He said the Center would focus primarily on improving math and reading
skills in elementary school, boosting graduation rates and improving the
quality of the workforce.
But the announcement also brought political turf wars over education policy
to the surface again.
A spokesman for Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a
Democrat who defeated Republican Tony Bennett last year, said Pence never
told her that he was considering creating a new public education agency,
even in a meeting two days before the announcement.
Department of Education spokesman Daniel Altman said Ritz found out about
the new agency in news coverage.
“Hoosiers students would be better off if the Governor would work with her,
rather than around her on this vital issue,” Altman’s statement said.
Pence’s office, however, denied shutting Ritz out of the discussion. In a
statement, it said Pence told Ritz earlier this week that he was considering
reorganizing a number of executive agencies.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce backed Pence even before Ritz raised the
“The ultimate responsibility for improving our education and workforce
training systems rests with our state’s chief executive. Governor Pence has
accepted that responsibility and is putting in place the leadership that
will be needed for coming years,” the Chamber said in a statement.
Much of the control over Indiana education policy ultimately rests with the
Legislature. In recent years, a shift toward vouchers and similar
conservative-backed changes has triggered political debates but remained
The new agency drew a mixed reaction from some key lawmakers. House Speaker
Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said aligning education from kindergarten
through higher education with workforce development would help students
develop the necessary job skills.
But Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said in a statement
that the new Center simply added another layer of bureaucracy to state
government and duplicated efforts already handled by the Department of
Education. He also said it would distance teachers, parents and local school
boards from education policy.
“Creating another government agency does nothing to address the state’s
unemployment and surely does nothing to improve educational outcomes for
Hoosier students,” Lanane said.