Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's State of the State address Tuesday focused on job creation and education, two intertwined subjects. Both require significant attention.
"As we gather this evening, a quarter million Hoosiers are out of work, and nearly one million Hoosiers lack the skills they need to succeed in today's marketplace," Pence told members of the Indiana General Assembly and the state's judiciary.
To attract new jobs, Indiana needs to improve the quality of education. Steps are already being taken in that direction.
Ball State University announced Tuesday that it is withdrawing sponsorship of seven charter schools, including the Charter School of the Dunes and LEAD College Preparatory Charter School in Gary, both scheduled to close June 30. This is the way school accountability is supposed to work.
Pence supports the reforms Indiana has taken toward increased school accountability, including letter grades for schools. He proposes to put extra money toward rewards for high-performing teachers and school districts.
Pence also proposes greater collaboration between employers and educators, as is already being done in Northwest Indiana.
"I propose we create Regional Works Councils to work with business and educators across the state to develop regional, demand-driven curricula to bring high-paying career options to more Hoosiers in high school," he said.
The National Center for Education Statistics reported Tuesday that more than 3.1 million high school students received their diplomas in 2009-2010, with 78.2 percent finishing in four years. Those numbers are the best since the mid-1970s. Progress is being made.
Pence also mentioned roads, an important consideration for the Crossroads of America.
"And since roads mean jobs, we're investing nearly $350 million in excess reserves on Indiana's roads, bridges and infrastructure of today and tomorrow," Pence said. That's his budget, not necessarily what emerges from the legislative process, but the need for additional road funding must be addressed.
Funding for roads must be a priority in the General Assembly this year. The razed Cline Avenue bridge is a symbol of transportation dysfunction. The state has yet to replace this vital link to Chicago, nor has it signed a contract with a company willing to turn that expressway into a toll road.
Indiana has much work to do. We hope the state's lawmakers will recognize and fund appropriately these priorities — job creation, education and transportation.