Governor Sets Up New Education Innovation Panel

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August 26, 2013 —

INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Mike Pence signed an executive order on Friday creating the Center for Education and Career Innovation, an agency that unites the administration’s goals for workforce development and education.

The center is meant to “improve collaboration among Indiana’s public, private and non-profit education and workforce partners by aligning education and career and workforce training efforts,” Pence said.

He said his objective by creating the center is to increase collaboration and coordination among state agencies in education and career innovation.

The Indiana Career Council, the Indiana Works Councils, the Education Roundtable and the State Board of Education, though functioning independently, will exist as part of the new agency. The budgets for those groups will also be directed through the new center.

“All of these disparate entities that have grown up over different years and have different responsibilities in terms of policy innovation have a place to come together, to think together,” Pence said.

But a spokesman for Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, complained that the GOP governor never informed her about the change. Traditionally, money for the State Board of Education has flowed through her office, which oversees the Department of Education.

However, after Ritz won the post last November – becoming the first Democrat to do so since 1973 – state board members voted to exert more control over its funding and hire its own staff. Under Pence’s executive order, that funding will now be part of the new Center for Education and Career Innovation.

Ritz found out about the change through the media, said her spokesman, Daniel Altman.

“Last November, 1.3 million Hoosiers said that they trusted her to run the Department of Education,” Altman said. “Hoosier students would be better off if the governor would work with her, rather than around her on this vital issue.”

But a statement from the governor’s office issued late Friday said Pence’s staff informed the Ritz’s staff about the change.

That came hours after Pence visited the career center at Warren Central High School to sign an executive order creating the new center. Teachers and students joined him for the announcement.

Pence said the agency will “bring the best and brightest minds together” and will seek to hold students, adult workers, educators, schools, higher education institutions and workforce programs accountable for their progress.

The funding for the center includes a budget of $5 million, which was already approved by the General Assembly through appropriations for the existing boards. Pence said he hopes the center will become a cost saver by bringing everyone together in an environment where innovation can occur.

But critics complained the Center for Education and Career Innovation will do more to complicate education policy than it will to unify it.

Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, called the agency a “new layer of bureaucracy” for the state.

And he said Pence should have discussed his ideas for education and the center directly with Ritz to not exclude nor undercut her duties.

“When it comes to our children’s education, politics must be set aside and all stakeholders must work together,” Lanane said. “That seems to have been lacking in this instance.”

However, House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said the new center will help Hoosier students thrive in the future economy.

“With nearly one-third of the state’s workforce lacking the necessary skills to succeed in our economy, we must continue to focus our resources on solutions that seek to provide Hoosiers with the tools they need to succeed in our globally dynamic marketplace,” Bosma said in a statement.

And groups that have supported education reform efforts pushed by Republicans lauded the governor’s actions. Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, also said he supports the governor’s executive order.

“It will benefit the state to have multiple policy bodies that previously have worked independently of each other now coordinated through one office,” Brinegar said in a statement.

Betsy Wiley, president of Hoosiers for Economic Growth, said the executive order is essential to Indiana’s future economic health and growth.

The Center for Education and Career Innovation “will play a key role in helping state agencies and industries to work collaboratively on effectively addressing the education and career development needs of all Hoosiers – from kindergarten to retirement,” Wiley said in a statement.

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