Economy, eduction are Pence’s biggest challenges

Pence faces challenges as new governor
Posted on Nov. 14, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.

Recent editorials from Indiana newspapers:

The Indianapolis Star:

The results were a bit closer than expected, but Mike Pence was elected as Indiana’s next governor ... by virtue of his well-organized campaign and a vision for the state that calls Hoosiers to reach beyond acceptance of the status quo.

In terms of jobs, education and the overall quality of life, Pence insists that Indiana can become a top leader in the Midwest and the nation.

We should settle for nothing less.

To get there, Pence, along with strong Republican majorities in the Indiana House and Senate, will have to focus on the major challenges — the economy and education — and avoid distracting themselves and Hoosiers by arguing over less pressing but more divisive issues.

In light of the election results, Pence’s trickiest work may well be on education reform. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, who led an aggressive reform movement for the past four years, lost in a huge upset to Democrat Glenda Ritz, who has been sharply critical of efforts to hold teachers and schools more accountable.

One of Pence’s earliest challenges will be figuring out how to push for continued reform while the Department of Education is led by an elected official with a very different vision for how schools should operate.

Perhaps common ground can be found in Pence’s call for a renewed emphasis on vocational training in high schools along with further strengthening of the state’s still relatively new community college system. Both of those steps are critical in a state where the economy continues to evolve and the education level of the current workforce remains inadequate.

A six-term incumbent in the U.S. House, Pence now must make the difficult transition from the legislative branch to the executive. A frequent spokesman for Republican causes while in the House, Pence has often favored lofty rhetoric over specifics and high concepts over details. As the head of Indiana’s government, he’ll now need to dig much deeper into the details of how his administration will operate. ...

The Tribune, Seymour:

John Lechleiter, the CEO of Eli Lilly and Co., is calling for the creation of a “world-class” research institute in Indianapolis to bring together scientists from universities and corporations to develop new medical therapies and companies.

He said Lilly would commit an unspecified amount of money to sponsor research at the new institute as well as allow its scientists to participate in collaborations at the institute. ...

The research institute idea, which Lechleiter hopes is launched by state, university and corporate leaders within the next year, was part of a broader charge he gave leaders in Indiana to redouble their efforts to grow life sciences businesses here.

Speaking at a recent meeting sponsored by Indianapolis-based life sciences group BioCrossroads, Lechleiter said, “On one hand, we can be content with the progress we’ve made and continue to follow the same path that got us this far. My prediction is that this will produce diminishing returns over time. Or we can make a course correction based on a sober assessment of our strengths and shortcomings and those of the competition we face.”

To do that, he said, Indiana needs to train and attract talented life sciences workers, which will require improvements in Indiana’s K-12 education, greater access to vocational training, investments in mass transit and an inclusive policy environment. He also called for the state government to “re-engage” with the life sciences. ...

The institute Lechleiter has in mind would try to bring together faculty from not just the state’s universities but commercial enterprises, as well. The research would be “outcome-driven,” focusing on new medicines, medical procedures and enterprises.

This is the kind of bold thinking Indiana needs to be doing to move forward in an increasingly technical segment of the economy. ...

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