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Pence outlines education reform, honors state worker

December 11, 2013 | 09:47 AM

For the first time in a number of years, and the day before Hoosiers celebrate the state's 197th birthday, a sitting Indiana governor spoke at the First State Capitol Building in downtown Corydon yesterday afternoon (Tuesday) before walking to the Old State Office Building to celebrate the anniversary of the state being admitted into the Union.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks of education reform and the state's 197th birthday yesterday at the First State Capitol Building. Photos by Alan Stewart (click for larger version)
In a speech that lasted about 30 minutes and standing at the podium in what was at one time the House of Representatives, Gov. Mike Pence was flanked by students from Corydon Central High School as he presented his education roadmap, spelling out the need to establish a voucher pre-kindergarten program for low-income families, create an Indiana Teacher Innovation Fund to support teachers who improve student outcomes through innovative work in the classroom, support teachers who move to under-performing public schools and charter schools serving low-income students, improve charter school performance by allowing charter school networks to manage their funds with the same flexibility as public school districts, re-purpose unused educational facilities for new corporations and charter schools, improvement of technical education, increase the number of dropout recovery schools for adults who never completed high school and create a performance-based program to equip under-skilled adults for jobs in today's economy.

Pence said the reason he chose Corydon to present his roadmap is because Indiana was the first state in the young nation to write free public education for its residents into its constitution, a document that was drafted two blocks away from the First State Capitol Building under the shade of the Constitution Elm.

"Hoosiers were forward-thinking people back

then, and we have once again become national leaders because of our wide-ranging education reforms," the Republican governor from Columbus said. "We have made great strides, but we cannot rest. Now is the time to move from education reform to education innovation."

Pence said the results on pre-kindergarten education are mixed, but that early learning programs targeted to at-risk and low-income children can and do work very well.

"I think preschool has been something that many of us have recognized for years. When a child shows up to start school and they are behind, then you are already trying to play catch-up. Indiana needs to make a commitment for preschool, especially for those who can't afford it," Steve Morris, Lanesville superintendent and junior-senior high school principal, said after the governor's presentation. "Investment in preschool education will help society in terms of ultimate social costs down the road more than any other investment the state could make."

Morris was one of several superintendents from Southern Indiana in attendance at the speech.

Regarding teachers, the governor said that, in efforts to improve schools, not enough is invested in teachers in a way that would allow them to lead as reformers.

"After all, they have dedicated their lives to education, and we should do more to unleash their creativity and expertise," Pence said. "That is why we are proposing a new teacher innovation fund that will make grants to teachers who have the best, scalable ideas for improving student outcomes. The fund will include money for teachers to help with classroom supplies so they don't have to dip into their own pockets, as many do today. Any renaissance in learning in Indiana will begin in the classroom, with creative and entrepreneurial teachers leading the way.

"I believe that, if we give teachers more freedom and show that we support innovation, they will do things no one had thought of before," he said. "And our kids will benefit."

Pence receives a Corydon Central t-shirt during his visit.
Pence went on to say that he supports a "Choices for Teachers" program that would provide a stipend to teachers who apply for and get a job teaching in a low-performing public or charter school serving a high percentage of low-income students.

In the area of charter schools, Pence noted that charters don't receive funds for facilities, which means they have to take money away from salaries and classroom needs to cover rent and building repairs. Pence suggested that unused public schools be made available for charters through a leasing program.

"Given that charter schools operate according to performance goals, this approach would simplify the process in the unfortunate event that a charter would need to close. And it would benefit the budgets of those districts that are carrying the cost of unused facilities on their books," Pence said.

During an impromptu press conference after his speech, Pence never gave a clear direction as to where much of the funding for the education roadmap would come from.

"I think his heart is in the right place, but I need to see the details of his plans," Dr. Neyland Clark, superintendent of South Harrison Community School Corp., said. "I wholeheartedly agree with preschool education that (Pence) spoke of. He's a businessman, so he knows about return on investment, and there's no better return on investment both in the area of education and society than to give children a head start on their education."

After the press conference, several students had the governor autograph an Education Roadmap handout they'd received. One student, Heather Hall, was nominated by CCHS Principal Jennie Capelle to give a CCHS T-shirt to Pence.

The students later joined Pence at the Old State Office Building for the birthday celebration.

Pence honors Snyder at party for 197th

A birthday cake was cut and a longtime worker at the First State Capitol Building was honored with the Distinguished Hoosier Award at a celebration for Indiana's 197th birthday, which is today.

"This is the epicenter of the bicentennial of Indiana," Pence said. "Tomorrow we're celebrating Statehood Day at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis and welcoming students to the Statehouse. As adults, we are teaching, we're passing along, we are helping young people understand the rich heritage and the privilege of growing up in the greatest state in the greatest nation on Earth, the state of Indiana."

Corydon was Indiana's capitol when it became the 19th state in the Union, and stood as the capital until 1825, when it was moved to Indianapolis.

"Generations of people in this community have cherished the history of this community, have cherished the birthplace of our state, cherished the generation of visionary people who forged that first state constitution in 1816," Pence said.

Pence pledged that his administration would work with the people of Corydon and others throughout the state to make sure that, when the bicentennial is celebrated in 2016, Indiana is given a proper sendoff into its third century.

"We're going to have a great celebration of our past, our present and our future when Indiana's bicentennial arrives," Pence said.

The governor went on to describe that sharing Corydon's history was only possible through many of the people gathered at the celebration, and, in particular, someone like Nancy Karen Snyder.

Snyder, who was born in Corydon and is a graduate of Corydon High School, started working for the state historical site in 1991 as an intermittent employee and, two years later, was hired as a full time interpretive guide.

Pence said she took her knowledge of Corydon on the road to schools with programs called "Junk in the Trunk" and "Covered Wagon," which she designed as a portable way to teach history to students. Snyder was also the driving force behind Corydon's popular fall event, Unsavory Past, which is the largest fundraiser each year for the historic site.

Snyder was then honored with one of the highest honors given by the State, the Distinguished Hoosier Award.

"I have a lot of fun here with all of the kids," Snyder said. "I don't know how many thousands of children in 20 years, fourth graders, and tried to educate them on Corydon and the capitol building. This is literally a shock to me."

Snyder wiped tears away as she stared at the framed document.

Pence was presented with a wooden gavel crafted with wood from the Constitution Elm and a painting of the First State Capitol Building in a snow scene completed by Gladys Moore and framed by Village Frame Shop. Pence was joined by Rhoads, Snyder and State Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville, as they joined to cut a birthday cake.

Twitter: @_alanstewart

  1. print email
    charter schools
    December 13, 2013 | 10:27 AM

    After 42 years in the public school system in America and 41 in Indiana, I am really tired of public schools being vilified for the awful job some people think we are doing! First Mr. Pence, if your charter schools are doing so well why did Bennett have to raise, the one who gave him money, the score of said school. All they are trying to do is turn the system into a for profit system! We have done a magnificent job up to now.! We can't pick and choose our students-we get them all warts and all. Also I am tired of the real problem being ignored. When are we going to instill in our kids a love of learning and that an education is important. I just want to say, yes there are some poor teachers just like there are some poor students. Most of the blame has been placed on the teachers! well, what about the parents who are often unhelpful and the students who don't care. You can take a horse to water but you can't make them drink. Yes we can salt the oats but that doesn't solve the problem of lack of initiative.

    I am also tired of people saying we have taken God and all sorts of other stuff out of school. No one stops a student from carrying around his Bible and no one stops them from praying. We just can't MAKE them pray like we want them too. I joked that as long as there are tests there will be prayer in school. I taught World History and believe you me we talked plenty about religions of the world. Quite often we found that most of the world's horrible massacres and evil was done in the name of someone's religion! And yes, Christianity too. Crusades!!

    I think we need to worry about how to make our students want to learn and then let the teachers do what they have been trained to do! Other countries do better because they have parents that instill the need to have a good education and are present as a part of their education.

    Money isn't the only answer but believe you me having classes with more than 40 kids isn't getting the job done. I found I had better results when I had fewer than 30 in the classroom. 30 was about maximum for the best learning. Now I will admit I had wonderful tools for my classroom and thank North Harrison for that. But you can't cut, cut, and cut and expect to do better. I can guarantee that it is a better bargain to let the public school system do the job than private or charter schools who can donate money to politicians and get them to cheat for them!!!

    Terry Mosier
  2. print email
    Why Were Teachers Threatened?
    December 13, 2013 | 01:48 PM

    After Mr. Bennett lost lawmakers took all the power away from that position. Then teachers were warned by Otto Schalk and others that we could be arrested if we campaign. Mr. Pence needs to listen to teachers instead of ignoring and threatening us when we speak. I understand that we should be held accountable if we aren't doing our job but its obvious that Indianapolis has no idea how to do that and our kids are ultimately suffering.

    Teacher's Voice
  3. print email
    December 16, 2013 | 10:24 AM

    It has always been illegal to campaign on the public's dime or the public's time.

    Teachers are no different from other government employees. They can't use government resources or government time to campaign.

    A teacher can't campaign in the classroom or with school resources any more than someone in the auditor's office can campaign in the government center or with government resources.

  4. print email
    December 17, 2013 | 04:54 PM

    If the teachers have a better way to teach our children, prove it. Put together a method of showing children are progressing and teachers are teaching without using standardized tests.

    If there is no method in place to measure improvement, schools will coast along and crank out more children without an education. There has to be some method to show accountability.

    Put one on the table. Be prepared for plenty of criticism. Everyone will find fault with it.

    Mr. Schalk did the teachers a great service by reminding them of the law. Training is never a bad thing. If it keeps one teacher from making a mistake, it was well worth the time he and the teachers spent.

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