In per capita personal income – a measure that reflects the average income of state residents and is used to measure prosperity – Indiana ranks in the bottom 10 of all states. We’ve slid down there in the last decade. Collectively, we Hoosiers have less of the American dream than we once did.
What does it take to reverse the slide? The answer is simple: A better-educated work force, which leads to better-paying jobs.
Getting to that answer is the hard part, of course. Indiana ranks in the bottom 10 states for college attainment. We’re also in the bottom 10 states for the number of children attending early education programs.
The Republicans’ American-dream plan calls for, among other things, promoting early childhood education and increasing accessibility to higher education.
The devil will be in the details. What does “promote” mean? No definitive word yet on that. It could mean expanding the state’s controversial voucher program that uses tax dollars to pay for tuition in private schools. And how do you increase access to higher education when the high cost of college these days means massive student loan debt? Indiana’s public universities have bitterly resisted efforts to tie more of their state subsidies to getting more of their students through college and out on time.
I like the American dream. I’m here because my starving Irish Catholic ancestors and my oppressed Russian Jewish ancestors were offered access to it. And jobs and education were their tickets to realizing it.
• Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana, including the Kokomo Tribune. She can be reached at email@example.com.