The Indiana Chamber’s Executive Committee recently voted to support Governor Pence’s education agenda in principle. The agenda represents an important first step in increasing the focus in Indiana’s K-12 education system to our state’s young people and allowing them to prosper through high-performing teachers and schools.
The list below represents the Governor’s education goals:
- Increase the base funding per pupil
- Build on the successful performance funding in the last budget
- Support efforts by the Commission for Higher Education to expand the performance-based model of funding for universities
- Allow schools to choose to become “Freedom to Teach Schools – whereby they can improve educational performance by providing more flexibility to superintendents, principals and teachers by easing laws, policies and regulations through waivers granted by the State Board of Education
- Adjust funding for public charter schools that will allow more communities to offer more choices for families and their kids, and attract more investment for education innovation in Indiana
- Improve Indiana’s school choice program by lifting the cap on the dollar amount for vouchers and support efforts to raise the cap on the choice scholarship tax credit program
- Work with legislators to act on the State Board of Education’s recommendations to develop a new, strategic approach to turning around failing schools
- Increase the amount of money, public and private, to give students more career and technical education opportunities
- Change how the state funds career and technical education courses, basing funding on performance and relevance instead of enrollment alone
- Give the State Board of Education authority to elect its own chair
The last bullet item would be a good step if the longstanding Chamber priority of making the state superintendent an appointed position is not enacted. There needs to be, at a minimum, some level of surety that the State Board of Education will function more smoothly and stay on task.
The one area where the Indiana Chamber differs with the Governor’s education agenda is on preschool; he is seeking $10 million a year in this next budget to fund pre-K scholarships for the five pre-K pilot counties.
The Chamber believes the pilot program is not adequate. Indiana has large numbers of children entering kindergarten unprepared to learn. This ultimately impacts all Hoosier students as schools are forced to deal with wide gaps in achievement levels.
The state needs to provide robust funding that will help all low-income parents access education–based preschool programs. Prudent financial decisions are necessary in budget sessions but so too is investing where it makes sense, like in statewide preschool.