Gregg urges education reform in Greencastle campaign stop
Campaigning in Greencastle Tuesday evening, John Gregg came to praise educators and bury the notion that Indianapolis knows best when it comes to education.
Surrounded by several local educators and supporters of his Democrat candidacy for Indiana governor, Gregg had a crowd of about 50 at The Swizzle Stick lending its ears to such notions as "the day of demonizing public schools teachers is over."
More respect and more funding are due teachers and Indiana schools in general, Gregg said, expressing his dissatisfaction with a prevailing state government attitude that "the best ideas all come out of Indianapolis."
"There's a reason they call them 'local schools,'" Gregg stressed, pointing out that while the governor's conference room has a table that seats 20 people, only Gov. Mitch Daniels and three advisers seem to convene there to make public policy.
Gregg assured there is room for other viewpoints and voices of education reform at that table.
"Why not a superintendent?" he asked. "Or teachers? Or here's a novel idea ... a parent."
Gregg offered a preview Tuesday night to the early childhood education plan he would announce Wednesday in Terre Haute and Indianapolis.
"We can do this," he said, "by making children a priority"
His new education reform package would include "truly, fully funded all-day kindergarten," the gubernatorial candidate said.
"If we truly want to make a difference with four- and five-year-olds, we've got to do it," Gregg said.
The plan is part of the "Hoosier Handshake" -- Gregg's vision for a better and
more prosperous Indiana that he has been outlining throughout the spring and summer.
Gregg said studies have shown that "pre-kindergarten programs increase high-school graduation rates, improve test scores and produce more productive adults."
"We owe it to our kids to make sure they are as prepared as possible to compete in this global economy, and that includes getting them ready to make the most out of their time in school," he added.
Indiana is one of only eight states, Gregg noted, that spend zero dollars on pre-kindergarten programs.
"And that is unacceptable," he said. "There is overwhelming evidence that early childhood education is one of the keys to success in school, and we need to get moving, investing in the economic success and well-being of our children."
The Gregg plan will also do the following:
* Launch a pilot pre-kindergarten program for four-year-olds designed to help middle-class and working families. Federally-funded Head Start programs are currently only available for low-income children, which means many middle-class, working families -- the parents who can't afford private preschool, but don't qualify for federal programs -- don't have a chance to benefit. Gregg's plan will launch an initiative modeled after Wisconsin's successful "4K" program, partnering with elementary schools, childcare facilities and Head Start programs.
* Institute a Hoosier State Childcare Tax Credit. A reported 23 percent of Indiana children age four and under are in families living below the poverty line, while the average annual cost of fulltime day care for a four-year-old is about $8,000. The Gregg plan will create a state child-care tax credit to help offset the costs of quality childcare for low- and moderate-income working Hoosiers.
"Not only will these programs help our children, but they will also save the state money," Gregg stressed. "Studies show that every dollar invested in pre-K programs saves state taxpayers $7.
"We must do more for Indiana's children -- we cannot allow them to fall behind kids in other states who have access to these programs. If future generations of Hoosiers are to build a more prosperous Indiana, these are necessary steps."
Tuesday night Gregg also stressed a need for renewed cooperation at the state level in order to achieve goals like good jobs, better schools and safer neighborhoods, families and children.
"Indiana is a great state," he assured. "But to make it better, we need to concentrate on bringing people together and concentrate on education reform
"I've traveled the state since last January," he said, "and all people want to talk about is 'what's wrong in Indianapolis?' 'Why can't we get along?' With all the fussing and fighting and not getting along, we're not getting anything done.
"I've never had anyone come up to me and say they have a Democrat problem or they have a Republican problem," the former Indiana speaker of the House added. "We need to listen and show respect and get on with our business."
Gregg said he's excited about the gubernatorial campaign and the reception his candidacy has gotten across Indiana.
"I know we're going to be outspent," he conceded, aware of the fundraising prowess of his GOP opponent Mike Pence, "but we won't be outworked."