CORYDON — Now that reform has been implemented, Gov. Mike Pence said Tuesday it’s time for Indiana’s legislature to focus on education innovation.
Pence’s address on his education agenda for 2014 in Corydon’s First Capitol Building focused on making pre-kindergarten education available to poor families, creating more teacher incentives and finding ways to let charter schools house themselves in vacant public school buildings.
With a number of students still struggling in the state, he said, the agenda is aimed at continuing the upward trend of Indiana’s test scores and graduation rates. 200,000 students remain in underperforming schools and 10,000 graduates need remediation in college — but Pence thinks the state can do better.
“I think we can agree that we are not yet educating every Hoosier kid in a fantastic way, so I believe there is still a lot to do,” he said. “That’s why I believe we should pursue bold objectives in this short session of our legislature. We need to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship among our teachers, create incentives for the best charter operators to come to Indiana, free up unused property, and create opportunity for students in a tough place, whether they’re 4 years old or 40.”
But the potential elimination of a revenue stream for school districts — the proposed business personal property tax legislation — leaves superintendents and other district officials concerned about how they’ll foot the bill for some of the governor’s new initiatives.
State Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Austin, said that in 2012 the business personal property tax generated about $1 billion for local Hoosier communities. If that tax is eliminated, it would not only affect school districts, but constituents may feel the pain instead of businesses.
“If there’s a billion dollars, which is estimated what’s lost, it’s going to be pushed onto local homeowners,” said Goodin, superintendent of Crothersville Community Schools. “It’s going to be a huge tax shift. Instead of saying a ‘tax cut,’ [Pence] probably should use the term ‘tax shift.’ It’s a shift from the corporations to local communities, and that’s going to have a huge impact.