Holcomb Proposes to Build on Pence’s Ed Reforms in Indiana

(Photo: AP)

(Photo: AP)

Indiana Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, now also the Republican candidate for governor of the state, explained his education plan that continues many of the initiatives of Gov. Mike Pence and will broaden others, writes Tony Cook for USA Today.

When Pence left to become Donald Trump’s running mate, Holcomb announced his plan for expanded state-funded pre-K education for children from low-income families, providing incentives to quality educators, and guarding Republican plans to expand Indiana’s private school voucher program and increase charter schools.

In a speech before the Indiana School Board Association conference at the Indiana Convention Center, Holcomb said he wants to shorten the state’s K-12 standardized testing system, align schools’ curricula with the needs of the state’s employers, and continue the A-F school assessment ratings while making them more transparent.

“This plan is meant to be much more than words on paper,” he said. “This plan is my to-do list. It’s a list of action items that will guide me and that I will personally work with the General Assembly on to make sure these ideas become more than just talking points, that they in fact become reality.”

Holcomb added that he would be working with the General Assembly to ensure that the actions he is touting will come to fruition. The governor and lawmakers will roll out a two-year budget when the session begins in January.

Pence paved the way by establishing the state’s first publicly funded preschool pilot program costing $10 million per year. Currently, approximately 2,300 low-income young people from five counties are being served.

More places are needed in the pre-K program, and Pence upset many early childhood education supporters when he failed to apply for an $80 million federal grant that would have expanded the program considerably. In June, Pence had a change of heart and announced that his administration would seek the funding.

John Gregg, the Democratic candidate for governor, wants to make universal 4-year-old preschool available, abandon the A-F ratings for schools, and add a more accurate and comprehensive performance assessment. He also is planning to lessen the private school voucher program and stop charter school expansion.

According to WFYI Public Radio’s Eric Weddle, Gregg has used his relationship with State Superintendent Glenda Ritz as a campaign tool.

Holcomb is proposing an increase in funding for special education and English language learners. He also promised to solve some of the issues that caused the state’s education oversight to be part of political arguments and have resulted in educators’ anger and unease.

Holcomb’s “Excellence in Education & Workforce Development” plan includes school choice via an “education eco-system” involving home, public, charter, and private schooling options. He also wants to see good teachers stay in the classroom and the state, but has not revealed the incentives he will use to do so.

The lieutenant governor is pushing for shorter standardized assessments and quicker reporting of results. Holcomb also wants to see school districts partner with state colleges and businesses, high schools joining with public-private STEM education, and more vocational and career training.

Currently, Indiana has the seventh-highest rate of high school graduation in the US at 87.9%, according to a 2015 government report.