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Pence says he, Indiana schools chief have same aims

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Indiana's new governor and state schools superintendent are from different political parties but they seemed in agreement Friday on getting schools to focus more on preparing students for careers.

Republican Gov. Mike Pence used his remarks opening the Indiana Education and Workforce Innovation Summit to promote his proposal for creating regional councils around Indiana where businesses and educators can help tailor school vocational programs to preparing students for available local jobs.

Legislators are considering bills to create those councils and a similar statewide panel.

Pence said he knows of many Indiana manufacturers that are having a hard time filling positions that require specific job training instead of a college degree. He said he thinks business leaders will enthusiastically support programs that give high schoolers additional vocational and technical skills.

"I think there are going to be opportunities for collaboration and resources far beyond traditional streams," said Pence, who planned to speak later Friday in Lafayette and Valparaiso about his workforce development plans.

The governor said he and Glenda Ritz, the Democratic state school superintendent, have found a lot of common ground in the weeks since they both took office following her surprise election night victory over Republican incumbent Tony Bennett. Bennett had pushed for private school voucher program and the first state takeovers of troubled public schools.

Ritz spoke after Pence at Friday's event organized by the University of Indianapolis, telling the some 150 participants that improvements in both vocational training and college preparation are keys to career development.

Ritz, who was a school librarian before winning election, said students needed to have opportunities like she did when she took part in a cadet teaching program while in high school in Lafayette.

"I knew that was what's for me and headed on my path," Ritz said. "All kids, all careers need to have that kind of chance to explore at the high school level, to get that relevance to their coursework and to know where they might be headed."

Pence said afterward that he agreed with Ritz on the importance of schools offering multiple tracks for students.

"That's exactly the kind of diversity of career pathways that we envision," he said.

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