REP. SMITH URGES GOV. PENCE TO FUND EDUCATION
January 15, 2015 — State Representative Vernon G. Smith (D-Gary) today urged Gov. Mike Pence and lawmakers to consider the implications of investing in prison expansion rather than developing educational opportunities for Indiana students.
Even though the 2015 Indiana General Assembly session has been plugged as “the education session” by many officials, only $10 million a year is being proposed to fund Pre-K expansion in the governor’s biennial budget proposal.
“Making a commitment to fund early and secondary education now will result in reduced correctional expenses for the future,” said Smith.
Gov. Pence’s $31 billion biennial budget increases K-12 funding by $200 million: two percent in the first year and one percent in the second year. He is also calling for increased financial support for vouchers and charter schools that could direct more than $50 million of those funds to private schools.
Appearing to mirror his predecessor Mitch Daniels, Gov. Pence proposed the state expand two Indiana prisons and increase its spending to $51 million. An additional $43 million to supplement the IDOC’s funding for operations and staffing is also being requested.
Gov. Pence is recommending $18.2 million for the construction of two new cell housing units at Miami Correctional Facility. The prison’s inmate capacity would increase by 512 beds. Another $32.6 million would add three new cell blocks at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility.
“When I discovered the governor was seeking more dollars for prisons, I have to say I was a little shocked,” commented Smith. “I had believed the state was on a move towards backing prevention and local corrections versus the state allotting even more funds for its penal system.
“As a legislative body, we need to place more emphasis on tackling the root causes of problems in our communities instead of assigning more funds to the consequences of those problems. I’m also concerned that public schools still will struggle despite the increased education funding,” he added.