Candidates for Governor Focus on Education in Debate

By Rachel Martin

October 10, 2012 Updated Oct 10, 2012 at 11:11 PM EDT

ZIONSVILLE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – The three candidates for Indiana Governor squared off Wednesday night in their first televised debate.

Republican U.S. Representative Mike Pence, Former Democratic Indiana House Speaker John Gregg, and Libertarian Reality TV star Rupert Boneham tackled the most important issues facing Hoosiers in their debate Wednesday night.

Perhaps the most important issues in this year's Gubernatorial Election are education, jobs and taxes. However, the candidates spent most of their time debating about education.

Collectively the candidates say they’d make the biggest changes in elementary curriculum and early childhood development as well as lowering college tuition.

In order to lower college costs, Pence says he would give students an incentive to finish their degrees on-time which would help families as well as the local economy.

“I believe Indiana’s on the verge of an era of growth and opportunity. If we produce a plan…I think we can take Indiana from good to great,” said Pence.

If elected, Boneham says he would do away with ISTEP+ and standardized testing. He says because children learn and test differently, emphasizing writing and essay tests would be fairer.

“Half of our budget goes to education, yet we’re still struggling…we’ve got our teachers tied to teaching to a test…we’re grading our students on the performance of one test instead of progress through the year,” said Boneham. “Life is not a multiple choice test, life is an essay.”

To lower tuition costs, Boneham says he would streamline educational costs into technology-based learning and online classes. He says he would also eliminate college core classes, which he considers remedial classes, and have students dive right into their major.

Gregg, somewhat agrees with Boneham saying education should be more inclusive.

“The day I’m governor, I would end the war on public education and public educators. I don’t think we improve public education by scapegoating principals and teachers. I’d be more inclusive on my reforms.”

Gregg, who is hoping the debate will close the large gap in the polls between himself and Pence, also says he’d reform education by creating an pre-kindergarten program.

“We're one of eight states that does nothing about pre-kindergarten and I am the only candidate for governor that has proposed any early childhood development programs. It's time we do this. It will prepare our students and every dollar spent on pre-childhood saves $7 in the course of that child's education.”

If elected, Gregg says he would put a freeze on college tuition costs and audit universities to see how they’re spending tuition money and if the high costs are necessary.

Despite their differences, however, there is one thing all the candidates agreed on.

“When our students graduate from high school they should be career or college ready,” said Gregg.

Pence shared that same sentiment Monday afternoon when he met with 20 area school superintendents and shared his ideas on education reform, and restated it Wednesday night during the debate.

The other hot topic of the night was job creation and strengthening the local economy.

Although Pence says he supports a worker’s right to join a union he strongly favors the Right To Work legislation saying it will attract more industry to Indiana. Boneham and Gregg claim they’re in favor of job creation, but would repeal RTW and not focus on divisive social issues.

However, all say if elected they would review the state’s business regulations to cut “red tape” to be more worker friendly, but streamline and strengthen regulation enough to still attract business and jobs.

The next Gubernatorial Debate will be held Wed. Oct. 20 in South Bend.

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