GUEST COMMENTARY: Follow money on Pence's education moves

2013-11-29T00:00:00Z 2014-02-01T15:34:13Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Follow money on Pence's education movesBy Karen Tallian nwitimes.com
November 29, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The executive order issued by the governor’s office creating the new Center for Education and Career Innovation signals a new paradigm in state government. This order states that because the Legislature gave the governor certain appointments on various board members (e.g., the State Board of Education, Education Roundtable, Indiana Career Council, Indiana Works Councils), the Legislature has also given him control over those boards. Therefore, this reasoning suggests, he can unilaterally, and without any further oversight by the legislative branch of government, bring them under his office.

Either this order represents a naive and misguided understanding of how state government works — and indeed this governor has had incredibly little involvement in state government prior to his election — or it represents a huge executive branch power grab.

Or perhaps it is, in the end, just another money grab.

How often have we been admonished: Follow the money. Yes, the order also takes over their money.

The governor’s order places that money into a non-reverting fund. (Never mind that non-reverting funds can only be created by the Legislature.)

The executive order says the new agency would be funded through money appropriated to those agencies, which totals $24 million over the next biennium. Surely that is but a pittance in the state budget. However, I suggest that this new agency might also be looking at other money administered by these existing agencies.

Take, for example, the nearly $50 million in Perkins funds allocated by the federal government that go to the State Board of Education for programs and vocational education at both the high school and post-secondary level. Perhaps, in the future, the new agency might be interested in the federal funds that flow to adult education (more than $28 million). How about federal Workforce Investment Act funds? I am just getting started. The total could approach more than $100 million this biennium.

And then, we might ask: What are they going to spend it on? We don’t know.

Perhaps the new agency can hire some consultants to do what these long-existing programs are already doing. Already, new, highly paid staff have been retained.

As many of us from this region know, there is little wrong with adult education that cannot be readily attributed to the fact that there has been no additional money given to it for years.

This action not only undermines Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, but also affects many other agencies and programs that have remained strangely silent in this debate. Commission for Higher Education: Aren't those some of your funds? Workforce Development? No comments.

Yes, I recommend the public watch these developments closely over the next few months, and to especially follow the money.

State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, represents Senate District 4. The opinions are the writer's.

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