Indiana Governor Mike Pence gives his inaugural address.

When looking at the 2016 landscape there is a potential candidate that comes to mind, the new Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence.  Governor Pence had a excellent track record as a member of Congress.  He stood for life.  He promoted federalism.  He was a tea party favorite.  His stock as a potential presidential candidate increased in my eyes when he won the gubernatorial election in Indiana.  It’s hard to reach the White House from the House of Representatives if not impossible.

As a Governor however, that’s an entirely different matter.  So as a former resident of Indiana and a resident of Iowa where Presidential candidates make their debut appearance I’m interested in how Governor Mike Pence will govern.

“Little birdies” with their ear to the ground in Indiana politics have told me that where Congressman Mike Pence was a firebrand social conservative, Governor Mike Pence will be largely mum on social issues.  Part of that is due to the difference between being a legislator and a Governor so it is somewhat understandable.  His focus is running a state and budgetary concerns.  My question is how will he respond when certain bills land on his desk?

I hope we see the same firebrand and Indiana will have the bold leader they deserve.

I read through his State of the State address which laid out his agenda since he was only 8 days into his administration when he gave it.  No mention of particular social issues, but then I didn’t expect that.  He wanted to hold the line on state spending and put forward a 10% tax cut for Hoosiers.  He also signed an executive order making sure that his agencies do not implement policies that have a negative impact on two-parent families.  I applaud this!

I did read with interest what he had to say about education.

We have to put kids first and ensure that every child in Indiana has access to a world-class education at public school, public charter school, private school or home.

I’m sure everyone in this Chamber has a favorite teacher. Mine is sitting right up there in the balcony-our new First Lady Karen Pence.

My wife Karen has spent her career in the classroom. We both believe teaching is a calling, and Indiana has the best teachers in the world.

When most people tell you about their favorite teacher, they tell you about the one who pushed them the hardest, who challenged them to grow; the teacher who held them to a high standard.

Those teachers know that setting high expectations works. We believe that, too.

Indiana teachers and schools have shown that they will rise to the challenge and make tremendous gains for our children. This October, we learned that 207 schools received the highest school ranking for the first time. Forty-three schools moved up three letter grades. Twenty-eight schools moved from the lowest ranking to a mid-ranking. This is a testament to the commitment and excellence of our teachers, and proof that our accountability system produces gains for our schools.

When it comes to our public schools, I believe we should fund excellence in our schools and our teachers.

That’s why we proposed an increase in funding for schools each of the next two years, with the second year based on school performance and an additional $6 million in teacher excellence grants to increase pay for our high-performing teachers.

We must continue to take steps to ensure that every third grader can read, to promote math proficiency by elementary students and to invest in highly successful drop-out prevention programs like Jobs for America’s Graduates.

And our administration also will work with our new Superintendent of Public Instruction to cut the red tape that teachers face in the classroom, and let them teach. Our children will get the best education when good teachers have the freedom to teach and are rewarded for excellence.

I have long believed that parents should be able to choose where their children go to school, regardless of their income. We must continue to expand educational opportunities, especially for those with the fewest resources, beginning with pre-K education.

High-quality early education programs can have immediate and long-term positive effects for our kids. Many communities across Indiana are already launching efforts to provide pre-K programs for at-risk children. One of the best examples is the Busy Bees Academy in Columbus, which serves at-risk and disadvantaged children in my hometown. Let’s work together to expand incentives for Hoosiers to support this kind of innovative, community-driven pre-K effort for our low-income children.

In recent years, Indiana has given parents who previously had few choices the ability to choose the public or private school that best meets the needs of their family. This fall, more than 9,000 students attended a school of their choice.

Like Kennedy Davis and her brother Isaiah. The Davis family, from Indianapolis, used the voucher program to send Kennedy to first grade at Trader’s Point Christian Academy. She’s a second grader there now and her brother Isaiah is in kindergarten thanks, in part, to Indiana’s school scholarship and tax credit program. Kennedy and Isaiah are thriving. They’re with us today. Keep it up, kids, Indiana is proud of both of you!

We’ve made progress in expanding choices, but we can do more. Expanding tuition tax deductions, removing the prior year requirement and lifting means testing for foster, adopted, special needs and military families would be a good start.

But when graduation comes, we want to make sure that our schools work for all our kids, regardless of where they want to start in life-whether they are headed for college or want to start a career right out of school.

I’m a school choice advocate, but I’m also one who doesn’t want strings attached.  I’m concerned that private schools and home schoolers will eventually have to embrace the Common Core State Standards. It’s hard to have real choice when the standards are the same.  He said nothing about them.  He didn’t comment on them as a candidate.  How will he handle SB 193, the Anti-Common Core bill, if it reaches his desk?  His campaign announced a commitment to federalism which I applaud, but does this not reach into education as well?

I hope that he will branch out from what the previous administration did and plot out a bold new course.  School choice certainly, but also standards that are truly excellent with input by parents and vetted by the Indiana Legislature.

There’s much we don’t know, but I look at the Pence Administration and perhaps a future presidential run with cautious optimism.

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