Gov. Eric Holcomb’s second major address to Hoosiers stuck closely to his biggest education policy priority for 2018: Ensuring students are prepared for life after high school.
“We must ensure that every Hoosier student receives an education infused with STEM subjects, critical thinking skills and the intellectual curiosity that prepares them for lifelong learning,” Holcomb said. “So when they graduate from high school, they have a ticket to their future success, be it going on to college or entering the workforce to realize a fulfilling career.”
His speech Tuesday night didn’t break much new ground, and some main themes — such as emphasizing science education and job training — are holdovers from last year. But while K-12 education has never been Holcomb’s strong suit, his remarks did indicate the importance the Republican governor is placing on adjusting the education system to better address his economic goals and showed he would be willing to even put money behind the effort.
His remarks on education — which took only a few minutes of his 30-minute speech before the legislature — appeared to align with a couple of key bills winding their ways through the Indiana General Assembly.
A bill to create a single state diploma has the support of some Republican legislative leaders so far, as well as state Superintendent Jennifer McCormick. It’s not clear exactly where Holcomb comes down on this issue, but he did call for changes to the state’s current system, which has four separate diplomas.
“Late last year, Indiana’s State Board of Education took a crucial step by approving new graduation pathways for high school students beginning in 2019,” Holcomb said. “And this year, we must advance a more relevant high school diploma so that every student graduates with a diploma that is their opportunity to advance to the next step along their path.”
Holcomb also said he supports a plan requiring all district and charter schools to teach about computer science in grades K-12, which would include funding so schools can train teachers in the subject area. The money, in the $2 million-dollar range, would come from several existing funds. Currently, about 42 percent of schools in the state offer such instruction.
“This year … we’ll enact legislation to require every Indiana K-12 school to offer computer science courses,” Holcomb said. “And we’ll pay for the teacher professional development they’ll need to inspire their students.”
Here he differs from McCormick, who supports giving more science, technology, engineering and math education to students, but doesn’t want to make it mandatory for districts.
“We want to see it offered to students,” said Adam Baker, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Education. “Their academic path is a decision they need to drive along with the input of their parents, and local educators and counselors.”
Leading state Democrats felt Holcomb’s speech lacked specificity and vision, particularly in the area of job training.
“I was struck more by what he didn’t say,” said Rep. Terry Goodin, House Minority leader and former superintendent. “I guess I was expecting more of a bold vision or bold idea in terms of what do we need to do to the workforce system here in Indiana.”
Yet Republicans cheered some of Holcomb’s goals on job training, acknowledging how unusual it is that legislative leaders and the governor would be on the same page on major priorities.
“I’ve worked with seven different governors, this is somewhat of a unique session,” said House Speaker Brian Bosma. “We’re all on the same page that workforce is the most critical issue.”
Below, you can find more excerpts from Holcomb’s speech.
On job training
“Over the next year, we’ll use the newly created Education to Career Pathways Cabinet — led by Secretary Blair Milo, Superintendent Jennifer McCormick, Commissioner Teresa Lubbers, DWD Commissioner Fred Payne and OMB Director Micah Vincent — to set the framework to guide regions and communities.
By next year, we must be armed with the framework to drive legislative action, including funding changes. But now, lawmakers, we need your support to position this cabinet for success to ensure our school-age Hoosiers are gaining the experiences and skills they need to thrive in our ever-changing global economy.”
On expanding education programs
“We’ll also take better advantage of programs with proven results, such as the Jobs for America’s Graduates program — or JAG. Last month, I agreed to become the chairman of this terrific national program that helps at-risk students complete their high school diplomas.
I’m committed to expanding JAG. It works. So, as we evaluate programs over the next year, we’ll maximize existing resources and work with the private sector to add 250 more programs all across Indiana within the next five years.”