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School standards showdown

Politics impeding state’s efforts to work on behalf of education

Indiana’s students and schools have made great progress in recent years. According to the latest scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Indiana is improving at the second-fastest rate of any state in the country. We owe this progress to the hard work of our students, teachers, and the parents and school reformers everywhere who have insisted that we hold ourselves to high standards.

To continue this momentum, in the last legislative session we increased funding for schools, created new performance funding for teachers who get results, and extended high-quality school options to more children.

I am especially proud that Indiana is taking the lead in making career and vocational education a priority in every high school in our state. At this moment, 11 Regional Works Councils made up of educators and business leaders are working to design new career and vocational curriculums that are relevant to the jobs in their communities. The legislation that established this effort and our new Career Council passed the General Assembly unanimously.

Change is never easy, but by working together, Hoosiers have been able to make meaningful progress for our children and our schools. Yet, there is more work to be done.

In education, that starts with fresh thinking about where our students are headed after graduation. That’s why I created the Center for Education and Career Innovation. CECI is an innovative approach to the education and workforce preparation pipeline that breaks down the silos that exist between K-12 schools, higher education and workforce development.

In Indiana, the governor is responsible for higher education and workforce development, as well as for appointing the 10 members of the State Board of Education, which the state superintendent of public instruction chairs. Under Indiana law, the State Board of Education sets policy for our K-12 schools and oversees the implementation of those policies by the Department of Education.

CECI consolidates the education and workforce responsibilities of the governor in a way that removes barriers that exist for our students, workers and employers.

It does so without taking any authority away from the Department of Education.

CECI has hired distinguished education and workforce experts, some of whom worked for the superintendent and some of whom worked for her predecessor. CECI’s co-director, Claire Fiddian-Green, is a lifelong Democrat whose strong background in bipartisan education reform reflects my commitment to take politics out of the development of education policy in Indiana.

Hoosiers may be assured that I will continue to advocate for new ways to support teachers, strengthen traditional and charter public schools, and see to it that all our children have access to the kind of education that leads to success in life.

Education in Indiana is a shared responsibility. I take my responsibility to continue the progress we have made in our schools very seriously, but I do regret that the Department of Education and the superintendent have misunderstood my sincere desire to work with them on behalf of all the children of Indiana.

Hoosiers place a high priority on our schools. They are not well served when politics prevents us from getting the job done for our kids. It’s time to put conflict behind us and work together for the benefit of our kids and their futures.

In the days ahead, I will look forward to working through these issues in a manner worthy of our people with respect and civility. And I invite the superintendent to join us in that effort.

In the meantime, every Hoosier should be encouraged to know that, despite the occasional disagreement on policy and practice, because of the efforts of our kids, our parents, our teachers, our superintendent, our Department of Education, our General Assembly and this administration, test scores are up, graduation rates are up, and the future of education and our young people has never been brighter.

Mike Pence is governor of Indiana. He wrote this for Indiana newspapers.

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