Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Governor Pence Still Advocating For Pre-K Pilot Amid Legislative Setbacks

Gov. Mike Pence signs an executive order creating the Center for Education & Career Innovation, an office to oversee his education goals.

Brandon Smith / IPBS

Gov. Mike Pence signs an executive order creating the Center for Education & Career Innovation, an office to oversee his education goals.

Gov. Mike Pence is still pushing for Indiana lawmakers to approve a preschool voucher program even after Senate Republicans scrapped the proposal.

Pence is headed to the Shepherd Community Center in Indianapolis this morning to visit pre-K classrooms and renew his appeal. The governor already made a rare appearance before the General Assembly earlier this month to back a pre-K bill from Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis.

But his support wasn’t enough to convince fiscal conservatives worried about how to pay for the program, and it’s unclear whether his continued backing will sway state lawmakers. Earlier this week state senators rejected a Democratic attempt to revive the pilot program.

It hasn’t been an easy session for the governor, who has had trouble advancing many of his legislative priorities. Tuesday, lawmakers sent a Pence-backed plan to pay teachers to relocate to struggling schools to summer study committee.

Again, it came down to cost, writes Scott Elliott for Chalkbeat:

It was another setback for Pence’s education agenda. His top education priority — creating a state-paid preschool pilot program — was routed toward a summer study committee last week. On Monday, an effort to amend the preschool bill, House Bill 1004, to revive the pilot program was turned backed. That bill could be voted on by the full Senate this week.

The “teacher choice” proposal was designed to provide an incentive for teachers to take jobs at low-scoring public or charter schools. As an incentive, Pence proposed that the state offer additional pay to supplement teachers’ salaries at their new schools. …

As with preschool, the concern about the bill was its potential long term cost. To address that issue, the bill was crafted only to create the framework of the program, but leave up to the legislature the amount of funding to commit to the program during the 2015 budget-making process. The preschool bill was similarly designed to limit costs before 2015, but in both cases that approach did not persuade enough lawmakers to approve the bills without changes.

The one area where Pence is likely to make progress this session is on reducing the business personal property tax, which as we’ve written, will have a significant impact on local schools who rely on revenue from the tax.

The Indiana House and Senate are considering separate proposals to reduce the tax. Instead of cutting an estimated $25 million in revenue to local governments, the scaled-back plans would eliminate about $13 million.


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