A cornerstone of Mike Pence’s political record has experts cleanly divided

After Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump selected Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate, Hillary Clinton ripped into the choice.

“Mike Pence is one of the most extreme vice presidential picks in a generation,” Clinton said at an American Federation of Teachers conference in Minneapolis on Monday.

“And he’s one of the most hostile politicians in America when it comes to public education,” she continued.

It was searing criticism, especially as Pence has made education the cornerstone of his policy agenda since he assumed governorship over the Hoosier State in 2013.

While it’s expected that Clinton would be critical of Trump and Pence while stumping in Minneapolis, the attack highlights Pence’s divisiveness when it comes to education policies.

School vouchers

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Gov. Mike Pence embraces a preschool student at the Shepherd Community Center Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, in Indianapolis.
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AP Photo/Tom LoBianco

As governor, Pence has championed a number of school choice policies, like Indiana’s voucher program, that affect funding at public schools. Vouchers allow families to redeem tuition funding if they choose to send their children to private, rather than public, schools.

Pence has won big in his push to expand the state’s voucher program, successfully lifting the cap (previously $4,800) on the amount of money families can receive when sending their children to private schools. In fact, Indiana’s voucher program is now one of the largest in the nation, according to the New York Times.

Opponents of voucher programs argue that they siphon essential funding from already meager public school budgets to other schools, and at their worst, are unconstitutional, as they use taxpayer-funded vouchers to benefit religious schools.

“Pence’s K through 12 education agenda has had serious, deleterious consequences for public education,” Bob Arnove, the Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies at Indiana University, told Business Insider. “He’s let ideology and religious convictions trump, and that’s no pun intended, the common good.”

John P. Bean, professor emeritus at Indiana University, also believes Pence’s school choice policies to harmful to the public education system.

“Pence’s promotion of school choice seems to be a thinly disguised handout to private religious schools at a time when public schools need more funding to function well,” Bean told Business Insider via email.

That opinion seems to be debated.

“Pence’s record in defending and advancing educational opportunity and access is strong, and his record on improving Indy’s schools is strong,” Michelle Tigani, the communications director at the Center of Education Reform, told Business Insider.

Tigani specifically highlighted that vouchers help the neediest families and children.

“Voucher programs largely help low income middle class kids; these are the kids that most need access,” to quality education, she said.

Voucher policies typically have income restrictions that vary state-to-state to ensure education funds truly end up in the families most in need. In Indiana, the 2016-17 income limit for a family of four to receive the largest voucher amount was $44,955.

Funding preschool

One of the education policies Pence is most heralded for is his move to publicly fund preschool programs around the state in the face of Republican reticence. He successfully created a $15 million a program, that while small, was the first of its kind in the state.

“It’s safe to say that had it not been for his strong leadership, we wouldn’t have had the pilot preschool program we have now,” David Harris, the founder of the Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education nonprofit, told The New York Times.

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Donald Trump with Mike Pence.
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AP

But that victory was not long-remembered. Soon after, he upset preschool advocates in the state by withdrawing an application that had been in the works to receive $80 million in federal funding.

“It is important not to allow the lure of federal grant dollars to define our state’s mission and programs,” Pence wrote in the Indianapolis Star after he killed the application.

The move appears to be emblematic of what some critics perceive to be the misguided principles that govern his decisions – often to the detriment of children.

“The loss of $80 million for Pre-K education because Pence would have to take the money from the federal government is lunacy,” Bean said. “Again, an enemy of public education would do something like that,” he continued.

Pence has since reversed course and indicated to the federal government that Indiana would like the opportunity to again apply for the grant money.

“Overall, I’d give Mike Pence an F, or perhaps generously a D-, for his bungled efforts to reform Indiana education policy,” Arnove said.

GOP education policy

It should be noted that Pence’s education policy agenda has not veered wildly away from others in his party. GOP policy makers traditionally favor school choice and limiting the role of federal government in schools. Like any policies aligned along party-lines, his actions as governor regarding education have both won and lost him support.

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump has continually slammed the American public educational system, though he has avoided discussing the specifics of what his education plan would resemble.

His choice of Pence as his vice presidential pick may be the clearest indication of education policies to expect with a Trump-Pence ticket.