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Editorial columns

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Education end-run

As a congressman, Mike Pence waged battle against government bureaucracy. As Indiana governor, he’s busy creating it.

Last week the governor used an executive order to create the Center for Education and Career Innovation, with two administrators and a 16-person staff. In July he announced the establishment of 11 regional Indiana Works Councils. He also launched the 16-member Indiana Career Council, with three special advisers.

The sleight of hand that empowered his burgeoning bureaucracy came from legislative budget writers moving funding for the State Board of Education and Education Roundtable from under the authority of the Department of Education – overseen by newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz – to their own line-item appropriations. The governor appoints all 10 members of the state board and co-chairs the Education Roundtable with Ritz, who was left to find out about Pence’s new agency from media reports.

Some legislators might have noticed the education spending switch, but the chairman of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee did not. Asked in July about the State Board of Education’s vote to hire staff separate from the Department of Education, Sen. Dennis Kruse said he did not know the spending authority had been realigned.

“I didn’t even know we did that,” Kruse said in an interview on Aug. 1. “Did we pass that that in a law? Where did they get the appropriation?”

Told that the state board had its own $3 million appropriation, he asked, “Are you serious? I have not heard that from anyone.”

Pence’s executive order spells it out. Funds will be administered by the CECI; the agency will report directly to the governor.

Democratic Gov. Evan Bayh could have engineered a bureaucratic end-run around Republican Superintendent H. Dean Evans in 1989 or around Republican Suellen Reed in 1993. Gov. Frank O’Bannon could have done the same to marginalize Reed in 1997. Instead, each took a bipartisan approach, working with a duly elected Republican superintendent to improve Indiana schools.

Pence has taken a different course. He can explain to voters how creation of a second education department squares with the bureaucratic growth he complained about as a congressman.

But further efforts to undo Democrat Ritz’s election might meet more resistance than he’s bargaining for. Kruse said he would oppose a move to make the superintendent of public instruction an appointed official.

“I don’t like changing laws just because you change the person in a position,” said the Auburn Republican. “I’m not going to be in favor of making (the superintendent) an appointed position.”

Kruse said Thursday he believes the concept of the new Center for Education has merit in coordinating education and career-training efforts but said he will watch to see that CECI and the Department of Education truly share communication in meeting that goal.

Taxpayers should do the same. Duplication of efforts and conflicting policy serve no one well, especially Indiana students.