FORT WAYNE – Gov. Mike Pence continued outlining his 2014 agenda Thursday, stopping in Fort Wayne to detail his plans for families and education.
Appearing at the Boys & Girls Club in front of smiling charter school students, Pence said strong, healthy families are key to a strong, healthy state and that his 2014 road map is aimed at supporting that goal.
He cited statistics showing that those who graduate from high school, get a job and wait until they are married to have children are much more likely to not fall into poverty.
We’ve got to find ways to encourage young people to get married, stay married and wait to have children until they’re married, Pence said. But when we talk about changing family dynamics, we must do so in a way that lifts up and praises courageous single parents. The state of Indiana is going to continue to keep our promise to the single parents.
Pence’s road map calls for vouchers for pre-K education for low-income families, a voucherlike program to make up the pay gap for teachers who want to move from public schools to underperforming schools or charter schools that have mostly poor students; increased income tax exemptions for dependent children; a state tax credit for adoption; and increased vocational training.
Pence said using vouchers for pre-K education would allow families to choose between public, private or faith-based programs. He said the program could provide pre-K education for 40,000 children whose families have incomes up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level.
Public school teachers would get a state stipend if they move to underperforming public schools or lower-paying charter schools where at least 50 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunch.
Pence said critics have already said the program creates an incentive to draw good teachers away from public schools, but he said it enables teachers to carry out their mission.
I don’t think teachers need an incentive to follow their hearts, Pence said. It’s an idea whose time has come.
Another way to help families, he said, is to cut their taxes. The dependent-child deduction in Indiana has not been increased since 1978, Pence said, even though the cost of living has increased 3.6 times since then. The current deduction is $1,500 per child. It would be $3,600 per child if it were indexed to inflation, he said, while the personal deduction – unchanged since 1963 – would be $7,600 instead of the $1,000 it is today.
That’s a difference in the lives of families, Pence said.
Pence also called for Indiana to offer a tax credit to offset adoption expenses. The federal government offers a $12,650 income tax credit for adoption; Pence calls for an additional credit on state returns of up to 10 percent of the amount claimed on the federal credit. He also called for a study committee to find ways to make adoption easier and less expensive.
I want Indiana to be the most pro-adoption state in the United States of America, Pence said.
He also said the state must focus on lowering its infant mortality rate, which is the sixth-worst in the nation.
We’re not talking about numbers, we’re talking about heartbreak, Pence said. Each one of these is an example of inexplicable pain.