Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Expect Education As A Primary Focus In Pence’s State of the State

As Governor Mike Pence delivers his annual State of the State address Tuesday night, one buzzword this year is sure to be “education.”

2014 was a big year for education policy in the Hoosier state, and it sounds like the trend will continue into 2015, especially as the General Assembly’s new budget session gets underway.

Gov. Mike Pence delivers his annual State of the State address Tuesday night.

Gov. Mike Pence delivers his annual State of the State address Tuesday night.

Pence has been promising a focus on schools since previewing his legislative agenda in early December, along with touting his “education budget.” It’s also a priority shared by both Republicans and Democrats in the legislature, who have also set forth heavy agendas for education policy and funding.

The governor gave a sneak-preview of how Indiana has been doing – and the moves he wants the state to make – during a legislative conference late last year. He cited a tuition support increase of $193 million in the last budget cycle, as well as $41 million for universities, and said Indiana is fully funding its teacher pensions, unlike other states.

He has promised to push to increase K-12 and charter school funding, eliminate the cap on school vouchers, and address financial needs for career and technical education – all promises he will likely reiterate tonight.

The governor has said his plans for this year will be work toward two overarching goals: to have 100,000 more students in B or better schools by 2020, and a five-fold increase in high school graduates with an industry-recognized credential.

Most of this will sound familiar because many of the same items appeared in Pence’s address last year. Pre-k and career and technical education were cornerstones in that speech – as was this, which sounds vaguely like the “Freedom to Teach” initiative the governor is expected to outline:

Too often we don’t invest enough in our teachers and allow them to lead as reformers. After all, they have dedicated their lives to education, and we should do more to unleash their creativity and expertise. That’s why I believe we need a teacher innovation fund to help teachers who are willing to try new ways to better teach our kids.

Pence has also hinted at a desire to reinforce support for existing plans (think transformation zones and the On My Way Pre-K pilot) as well.

Some political pundits say this speech is big for Pence, who could potentially make a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Along with contenders like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and New Jersey’s Chris Christie, he’s faced with the challenge of laying out a solid vision for his home state that also appears relevant to national trends. Since education is something that affects everyone, everywhere, people will be taking a close look at how Pence handles that agenda.

The governor’s address begins at 7 p.m.

StateImpact will be following along live during the governor’s address, and we want to hear from you! Tweet us @StateImpactIN using the hashtag #INSOTSedu and share your thoughts.

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