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Last updated: Fri. May. 30, 2014 - 08:47 am EDT

State Chamber president says improving education still the top priority for the future

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The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has never seen a session of the General Assembly that treated it better: More than 40 bills it supported were enacted, but none that it opposed became law, said the group’s president.

But there’s still an enormous amount of work to do in state government to improve the state’s economic standing, said Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO of the Chamber. Brinegar was in Fort Wayne Thursday to meet with member businesses and the editorial board of The News-Sentinel.

At the top of the Chamber’s list, because it presents such a challenge, is improving the educational attainment of Hoosiers and increasing the skills of workers. There’s no single, simple solution; instead, the group advocates several measures as part of its Vision 2025 strategy.

One of the keys is changing the way people think about education beyond high school, he said. Only 34 percent of adult Hoosiers have completed a training certificate program, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. The Chamber is pushing for 60 percent of Hoosiers to have post-secondary education 11 years from now.

One of the challenges is that not enough people recognize the value of continuing their educations after high-school graduation.

“We don’t have too many kids going to college, but we many have too much focus on four-year baccalaureate degrees,” Brinegar said.

There have been lobbying successes in education in the last two years, such as the creation of a pilot pre-school program concentrating on helping low-income children and the first work from the Indiana Career Council to help match educational opportunities with the needs of employers, he said.

But Brinegar there’s much left to accomplish, from getting adults with some college credit to go back to school to enlarging the field of view of high-school guidance counselors so that they promote certificates and associate’s degrees.

Meanwhile, the state’s political leaders ought to figure out how not to waste time and money in setting education policy. A prime example was the turnabout on Common Core, after teachers across the state had worked to prepare for it.

“That two-year excursion was a really big waste of time and money,” Brinegar said. “Those standards were good standards.”

To him, it appears that the state standards that will replace Common Core are largely drawn from Common Core, he said.

The Chamber also is pursuing a policy agenda to improve the state’s business climate, modernize its infrastructure and create a “dynamic and creative culture” to encourage entrepreneurs. By most national rankings, the state stacks up better in those latter three categories than in education and workforce development, according to Chamber research.

bcaylor@news-sentinel.com


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