Pence: General Assembly will focus on K-12 education this session

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Next Tuesday, the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly will convene. Governor Mike Pence says this session will be all about K-12 education in the State.

It will be interesting. You would think everyone would be on the same page when it comes to education but that is not the case.

Governor Mike Pence says 2015 will be a year for K-12 education in Indiana. Outside of public safety, he sees it as the most important responsibility he has as Governor.

"Clearly, there have been challenges. Particularly at the highest level of education governance and with more than 100,000 kids in under performing schools in our state, we have a ways to go in education. That is why I really believe this coming session of the General Assembly should be an education session," Pence said.

He wants to strengthen K-12 education, look for ways to expand choices with public charter schools and vouchers but he also admits the Center for Education and Career Innovation he created caused more problems than it solved, forcing him to dissolve the office. But he remains steadfast on another front.

"I think it is important to let the members of the Department of Education elect their chair. The Superintendent of Public Instruction plays a vital role on education in Indiana, is elected to serve in that position, as our superintendent and should be on the board, but I really believe it would enhance the functionality of the state board of education if the members of the board we allowed to identify that person who was essentially best able to lead the state board of education by consensus," Pence continued.

As of now, the voters of Indiana decide who chairs the State Board of Education by electing a Superintendent of Public Instruction. By allowing for a vote of the board, it allows a sitting Governor to use appointments to stack the Board in his or her favor.

It certainly is a much cleaner way to attempt to strip power from the sitting Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz. Democrats appear poised to use any attempt to do so as part of the Republican war on women and could very well be paving a path for Ritz to run for Governor against Pence.

But first things first: will the Governor run for reelection or for President? Pence certainly says all the right things.

"I am focusing all of my energies on the upcoming session of the General Assembly," he told Eyewitness News in a year end interview.

But yet, five days before the 2015 legislative session is to begin, the governor is refining his foreign relations resume with a nine day trip to Israel.

"From my two years leading the great state of Indiana, I can say that support for Israel in the United States has never been stronger," Pence said to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

"My pledge is that I will stay completely focused on the future of the people of Indiana and the upcoming General Assembly and after that adjourns, my family and I will probably take some time to sit down and make decisions about my future," the Governor said back in Indiana before he even announced his intention to travel to Jerusalem.

That timetable might be delayed even more if a proposed bill allowing him to run for Governor and President at the same time is passed out of the legislature in the upcoming legislative session.

"The greatest privilege of my life is to serve as Governor of the State of Indiana and we have worked hard to be in position to reapply for this job but I think the people of Indiana expect the Governor to be focused on their future and not on politics and future campaigns, and that is what I am doing. So we are focusing all of our energies on preparing for this upcoming session of the General Assembly and after that is over, doing what we have always done: take time as a family to reflect and pray about where to best serve," Pence concluded.

Just because a lawmaker proposes a bill, in this case one to allow the Governor to run for Governor and President at the same time, doesn't necessarily mean it will pass. There is an overwhelming majority of Republicans in both Houses which means it certainly could pass, but it will be interesting to see if leaders in the Senate and the House feel like they want to use that muscle on a bill to benefit one person.