State Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, said he sees things much differently because districts, charter and private schools all have their share of low-income students.
“I support school choice, including access to public charters and private schools,” Clere said, “but not at the expense of public education. Many disadvantaged students have gained access to educational opportunities that were previously unavailable to them as a result of the charter and voucher initiatives.”
Pence said with some districts spending as much as $25 million to maintain vacant properties, he’d like to create a council to look at vacant properties statewide and figure out how to make it possible for charter schools to lease them.
Goodin said he’d like to see the decision on how school resources are treated left to local entities rather than the state. Clere said while he supports the idea, he’d also like to see school boards involved in the decision making of their own assets.
“I’m all for making the best possible use of unused buildings and I think in some cases, that may be as a school building with a different education provider, such as be a charter school,” Clere said. “But we also need to preserve and respect local decision-making, so I’d like to see us create a better framework for local decision makers to do the right thing by both students and taxpayers. But I wouldn’t want to take away all local control.”
Pence also said he’s not sure what a program for implementing pre-kindergarten education across the state would look like, but there are several options he’d like the legislature to consider.
“First you decide where you ought to go and then you decide how you’re going to get there,” Pence said. “I just came to the conclusion after traveling and visiting some extraordinary pre-K programs in the state of Indiana, that our state should make a commitment to open the way for pre-K education to disadvantaged kids.”
Whether that’s implemented through a voucher program for families below the 150 percent poverty lines or other means, he thinks it would help those students — who seem to perform at a lower level than other students — succeed in their education.
Pence isn’t sure how much it would ultimately cost the state and though the upcoming legislative session isn’t a budget session, he wants the legislature move forward on the initiative.