Where Does Mike Pence Stand on Education?

Donald Trump introduced his choice for Vice-President, Mike Pence, in New York on July 16. The process was more like a débacle and less like a formal introduction, as Care2’s Robin Marty describes here.

Trump was reportedly having second thoughts right up to the last minute, and beyond, and appears to have selected Pence largely on the urging of his children. 

But Pence is a solid social conservative, fiercely anti-gay and anti-abortion, who has famously said, “I long for the day that Roe v. Wade is sent to the ash heap of history.” So the Governor of Indiana can bring in that far-right vote, and also that of evangelical Christians, since he has declared that he is “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” 

But as a teacher, I wanted to find out where this governor stands on education.

Common Core

Forty-two states, the District of Columbia, and four territories have adopted the Common Core State Standards. That number used to be 45; Indiana, under Pence’s governorship, was the first state to pull out. Indiana also decided to back out of the federally-funded Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests (PARCC) tests, which are aligned to the Standards. 

As a reminder: The goal of the Common Core is to ensure that students all across the country have common skills at each grade level for language arts and mathematics. The standards are not a curriculum. Instead, they describe what children should know and be able to do at the end of each grade level, and leave it up to individual school systems as to how to meet those standards. 

It is Pence’s belief that the federal government should play little or no part in education. So when a growing group of opponents to Common Core consistently decried the program by linking it, incorrectly, to the Obama administration, Pence jumped on the bandwagon. In his 2014 State of the State address, he called for Indiana to develop its own standards and void its adoption of Common Core. So that’s what subsequently happened.

Ironically, those new standards seemed to be an awful lot like the Common Core standards.

Every Student Succeeds Act 

But now there is another switch. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama in December, 2015, and one of its goals is to give all states more flexibility in testing than the previous program, No Child Left Behind, had.

In response to this, Pence said the new act provides an opportunity to “reconsider the ISTEP test and take a step back” to look for “ways we can do testing better.” (ISTEP is the name of the Indiana testing program that was replaced by the PARCC testing, and then re-introduced when Pence threw out Common Core.)

Now Pence has authorized a task force that must report its findings on the possibilities of developing a new test with ESSA in mind, by December, 2016.

Perhaps Pence is trying to recoup the approximately $60 million in hotel profits, tax revenue and other economic benefits that he lost last year, after he signed the state’s religious objections act into law, and a dozen groups subsequently decided against hosting their annual conventions in Indianapolis.

School Choice

In line with his suspicion of any federal involvement in education, Governor Pence is a strong advocate of school choice.

Each year since he was elected governor, Pence has spoken at an annual school choice rally, affirming his strong support for publicly funded vouchers to pay for private school tuition and for charter schools. In doing so, he has taken money away from “regular” K-12 public schools, in a move that many see as a direct path to eliminating the Department of Education and privatizing all education.

According to Chalkbeat Indiana, he was behind the most significant increase in charter school funding in years by helping create a $10 million grant fund that would offer an extra $500 per student to charters that post better outcomes than traditional public schools.

In addition, he gave charter schools access to a $50 million fund to help cover the cost of school construction or the purchase of educational technology. And he successfully called for lawmakers to raise the $4,800 cap on vouchers for elementary school students. 

“Mike Pence has been terrible for Indiana’s students, families and public schools. As an unpopular and divisive governor, he pushed for draconian cuts to K-12 public schools at the same time that he diverted funds via private vouchers schemes from public to private schools and significantly expanded the number of corporate-run, unaccountable charter schools,” declared the National Education Associations president, Lily Eskelsen Garcia.

Early Childhood Education

In 2014, Pence worked to start a $10 million preschool program in Indiana. That sounds great, right? Wrong: Despite building a reputation as a preschool champion, Pence angered early childhood proponents later that year when he told state officials not to submit an application for a federal education grant, one that might have garnered the state as much as $80 million for preschool.

Trying to justify his decision not to apply for federal money, Pence said that the grant would have required changes to the preschool pilot program, even though it had not even begun yet. Do we see a pattern here?

Then, just last month, he changed his mind again, and wrote a letter to Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, asking for information on how to apply for the funds. I guess he doesn’t mind taking money from the feds if it helps him?

No Child Left Behind

NCLB has now been replaced by ESSA, as noted above, but back in 2001, as a member of Congress, Pence was one of just 25 Republicans to vote against NCLB, citing his fear of federal intrusion into education. Yes, that again.

The law was immensely popular at the time, bridging the Republican/Democratic divide, and did indeed somewhat expand the role of the federal government in K-12 public education.

As it turned out, NCLB had numerous problems in its implementation, and has now finally been replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Photo Credit: Screenshot from Washington Post video

62 comments

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John B8 months ago

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John B
John B8 months ago

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John B8 months ago

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John B
John B8 months ago

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Marie W.
Marie Wabout a year ago

Where he stands on education makes no difference- on women's rights he is to the right of Attila the Hun.

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Teresa Antela
Teresa Antelaabout a year ago

noted

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Julie W.
Julie Wabout a year ago

Good grief! He is worse than Trump, because he has actual policies. Trump just says whatever comes into his head, with no idea how to implement his 'ideas'.

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