Gov. Eric Holcomb’s State of the State speech tonight to state lawmakers and the public didn’t yield any surprises as far as his education policy.
He stuck pretty closely to agenda items he outlined earlier this month on preschool, making sure students have the skills to get high-demand jobs and appointing future state superintendents.
Now that he’s entered office, Holcomb has been mostly silent on some of the most pressing education issues that have already inspired numerous bills and discussions this session from Republican and Democrat lawmakers. Aside from preschool, he hasn’t developed new or significant policy positions on testing, school A-F grades or issues of teacher pay or evaluations.
Holcomb reiterated his position on preschool Tuesday night, calling to double annual state funding to $20 million, but keeping the program within the original five counties.
Indiana Democrats said this was a timid move that vastly underserves the rest of the state’s 92 counties.
“We really should be tripling or quadrupling the amount for early childhood education,” said Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson. “I know plenty of areas in the state of Indiana … they are ready. The state needs to meet those efforts. It’s the future of our state and we need to invest in it.”
While Republican leaders are supportive of furthering preschool efforts, they are also proposing a fairly modest increase in the program. House Speaker Brian Bosma has said he’d like to see the state preschool program expand to at least 10 counties, if not more. But he notes, growth has to be cautious in a year when state revenue is down from earlier projections.
“Perhaps we can do a little bit better,” Bosma said. “But we’ll have to see. The questions is whether we go to more counties or more low-income children in the same counties.”
Below, you can find excerpts from Holcomb’s speech that deal with his education priorities.
On workforce development:
“Our plans need to be comprehensive — beginning with an education system that gives every child a strong start all the way through the training programs that ensure our citizens have the skills they need. Therefore we must make sure that our resources are properly aligned to produce the skill sets our businesses crave and I look forward to working with Rep. Huston to develop a plan to create, reconfigure and align workforce development programs and funding so that this needs — of today and tomorrow — are met.”
“Our most vulnerable children deserve a fair start, too, so I’ve called for us to double the state’s investment in pre-kindergarten to $20 million annually.”
On developing STEM plans:
“We also know that science, technology, engineering and math — the STEM subjects — are critical for 21st century jobs — not just Ph.D.s, but a growing number of jobs in all key sectors of our economy, yet the many statewide efforts to boost STEM education are often independent of each other. So we will invest $1 million each year to lead a statewide effort to better coordinate K12 STEM education throughout Indiana and tap into the synergy that is within our grasp.”
On making sure schools have technology support:
“More than half of Hoosier schools lack WiFi in their classrooms.
To improve digital connectivity, we’ll increase state funding by $1 million annually to enable more schools to participate in the federal E-rate matching program.”
“Finally, I propose that the Superintendent of Public Instruction become a position appointed by the governor — beginning in 2021.
Education is a key to our state’s future. And I’ve long been committed to the notion that, as the state’s chief executive, the governor should set education priorities and be held accountable for the results. I have great respect for our new superintendent, Dr. Jennifer McCormick, and look forward to working with her closely over the next four years. But, regardless of party, the governor should be able to choose his or her key education partner.”