INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Mike Pence went to Capitol Hill Wednesday to testify about education reform in Indiana, but he found himself on the defensive.
Democrats want to know why the GOP governor rejected $80 million in federal money last year. It was money earmarked for pre-kindergarten education.
Governor Pence was one of four witnesses appearing before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and he wanted to talk about how Indiana is making career and technical education a priority in high schools.
“It will increase our graduation rates,” he said. “It will increase their passion for education and it will kindle a fire in their hearts and minds for a brighter future.”
But a pair of Democrats took turns quizzing the governor about a decision that has also been challenged here at home, his refusal to accept a federal grant.
“Indiana as a Category 1 state was eligible for up to $80 million dollars,” said Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts.
“I believe that that would help, would have helped, 2,000 children access pre-K,” said Rep. Ruben Hinojosa of Texas.
Instead the governor is sticking with a state funding pre-K pilot program in five counties that is just being launched.
“My decision ultimately was I did not want, with all due respect to the federal treasury,” Pence told the committee, “I did not want to invite federal resources to expand a program before it was even started.”
Pence said he will look for ways to expand the program using state money.
The governor has previously expressed concerns about restrictions that might come along with the federal money.
Wednesday he asked the committee to give states “resources, not red tape” when it comes to education funding at all levels.