September 4, 2013

THEIR VIEW: Pence, Ritz must work together


---- — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s creation of a new state jobs agency left Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz complaining she wasn’t consulted, even though education is a vital aspect of the new agency’s mission.

In fact, education is even part of the agency’s name — the Center for Education and Career Innovation.

Pence has spoken often of aligning career and workforce training efforts, so his involvement in creating this new agency should not have come as a surprise, but it definitely should not have surprised Ritz.

Ritz’s spokesman, Daniel Altman, spoke volumes about the relationship between Ritz and Pence.

“Unfortunately, Superintendent Ritz learned about the creation of this new agency through news reports rather than from Gov. Pence,” Altman said.

There are political considerations that cannot be ignored. Pence is a Republican, while Ritz is a Democrat.

It could easily be said the governor outranks the superintendent of public instruction, but both were elected by the voters, and if you’re looking to see whose mandate is stronger, Ritz received more votes than Pence.

“The ultimate responsibility for improving our education and workforce training system rests with our state’s chief executive,” said Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

Strictly speaking, however, education is Ritz’s bailiwick. But that shouldn’t get in the way of creating good public policy.

If there’s an education component, as there clearly is with this new agency created to oversee other state jobs agencies’ efforts, Ritz should be involved from the start.

But that wasn’t the case with this new agency. Now what?

The relationship between Pence and Ritz is clearly strained, but that’s nothing a good beer summit can’t fix.

Pence now should extend an olive branch to Ritz and ask for her involvement in this new agency.

Both Ritz and Pence see the need to better align career and workforce training efforts with the K-12 curriculum as is being done in Northwest Indiana with the Ready NWI project.

With stagnant personal income levels — LaPorte County paychecks are at the 1985 national average, and Lake County are at the 1995 level — and a state unemployment rate a full percentage point higher than the national average, the task of improving Indiana’s economy is urgent.

Here’s a chance for Pence and Ritz — a Republican and a Democrat — to show Hoosiers they can set politics aside and work together to bring real change for Indiana.

— The Times, Munster