By Mike Pence
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence
Last December I called upon the Indiana General Assembly to make this an education session, and the results are clear. In this biennial budget, we made historic investments in education at every level from pre-K all the way through our adult high schools, because education will not only help our people succeed; it will help our state succeed.
From our pre-K pilot program to our K-12 schools, tuition support and pension support for our teachers, we have invested in our future like never before.
This budget includes a historic investment in K-12 education and continues our commitment to paying good teachers more with $70 million in teacher performance funding. Half of these bonuses can go into teachers’ base pay to reward them long-term for their excellent work.
Since I took office, we have worked to make career and vocational education a priority in every high school in Indiana again. Our Regional Works Councils have been identifying high-wage, high-demand jobs on a regional basis, and now we are continuing our historic commitment to career and vocational education with nearly $50 million in new resources and incentives for schools to offer courses in high-wage, high-demand jobs.
We have provided new pathways to success for students by supporting public charter schools with the first-ever facilities funding, including $20 million in grants and $50 million in construction funds. We expanded our educational voucher program, now the largest in the country, by eliminating the dollar cap on vouchers and raising the cap on the Scholarship Grant Organization tax credit. These will open doors of opportunity for disadvantaged families to choose the best school for their kids. And, we’re providing second chances to those who have dropped out of high school with more funding for adult high schools.
Additionally, the budget bill provides funding for the Regional Cities Initiative to bolster regional economies and attract talent, and $200 million in new Major Moves 2020 funding for highway construction and expansion. It also builds on our efforts to reduce the heartbreak of infant mortality and provides for domestic violence prevention and treatment. It doubles funding for the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs, ensuring that the men and women of our armed forces have the resources they need upon returning home.
If we stopped right there, we could declare this a successful session, but we also began the process of adding a balanced budget amendment to Indiana’s constitution to require future lawmakers to continue the good fiscal practices of recent years by passing honestly balanced budgets. We also simplified our tax code, created the state’s first fire training academy, and provided for a new State Archives building and a new inn at Potato Creek State Park to mark Indiana’s bicentennial.
Hoosiers can rightly consider this legislative session a success. I commend the members of the General Assembly and thank them for helping us provide flexibility and funding for students, parents, teachers and schools; for protecting our state’s future economic growth and fiscal integrity; and for caring for the health and well-being of the people of Indiana.
Mike Pence is a Republican and former congressman who was elected in 2012 to serve as Indiana governor.