Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will be in New York City early next week, with some of what are described as the “top thought leaders and influencers” in education, to talk about his plans to overhaul vocational education in Indiana’s high schools.
Pence will join two other governors on a panel about state education policy at the fourth annual Education Nation Summit, sponsored by NBC News. The event runs Sunday to Tuesday; the governors’ panel will be Monday.
The invitation to the summit comes at a time when Pence is pushing to revamp the vocational education curriculum in Indiana high schools to make it more relevant to the real-world needs of students and employers.
Among his goals is to dramatically increase the number of students who come out of high school with industry-approved credentials and training that will put them on a path to get a good-paying job.
“The reality is that career and technical education in Indiana is very good in some places and non-existent in others,” Pence said Thursday. “My goal is to make career and vocational education a priority in every high school.”
He has his work cut out for him: Indiana spends more than $100 million a year on vocational education in its high schools, but only turns out a few thousand students a year with an industry-approved credential or certificate that indicates they’ve received job training. Of the 100,000 students who take an initial vocational education class, only about 10,000 continue on to take a second class and to graduate with a concentration in vocational education.
Pence wants to fix that by giving employers more say in what’s taught in high school. He’s created a series of regional career councils — made up of local business leaders and educators — to look at the vocational education courses currently being offered and design new ones, if needed, to better match the local needs.
“The way we can jumpstart Indiana’s commitment to career and vocational education,” Pence said, “is by anchoring it to the jobs and opportunities available in each region.”
The regional career councils have already begun their work, and they are expected to come up with a series of recommendations for what’s needed from the legislature to make changes in vocational education.
That may include changing the way vocational education is funded. The current funding system rewards schools for offering more courses and enticing more students to enroll in them. Pence wants to see more of a performance-based funding system, rewarding schools for graduating students with job-ready credentials.
“I’m very inclined to have resources flow in the direction of performance,” Pence said. “I call it funding excellence. You create the goals, create the structures, create the curriculum and then reward the schools that are achieving those objectives.”
Pence expects to be talking about all this and more during the panel discussion, titled “What It Takes: Leadership” at the Education Nation Summit. Joining him will be Democrat Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky and Democrat Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts.
Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for CNHI, the Tribune-Star’s parent company. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indiana