There are grassroots movements in support of public education spreading all over the country.

Most recently, we’ve seen this in Kentucky. In a major upset, Andy Beshear toppled incumbent Matt Bevin in the gubernatorial race, running on a solid pro-public education platform. Making good on his campaign promises, Gov. Beshear got right to work. On his first official day as governor, Beshear dissolved the Kentucky Board of Education clearing the path for new blood — people with actual experience in public education — to take over Kentucky’s public education policy. That was one bold move and it captured the attention of public education insiders all over the country. The pendulum is swinging back in Kentucky, and it won’t be long until it spreads.

Indiana policymakers continue to put the pressure on teachers to raise test scores, holding their compensation and livelihoods hostage. They have seen to it that teachers are held accountable for the results of a wildly inequitable standardized testing system. They insist when our students don’t perform well on these tests, it’s our fault as teachers.

Well, let’s play that game and take it a step further.

Teachers are the “middleman” in this school accountability equation. State policymakers are upper management. They are the ones who are pushing for more school choice. They keep promoting more charter schools and spending more and more money for them, even though those schools traditionally have struggled more than traditional public schools. They are the ones who say that when schools don’t perform up to their standards, they will take over those schools. To date, this policy has been a complete failure. They are the ones who’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to come up with new standardized tests. They are the ones who came up with the new ILEARN test which, in its first run, saw more than half of all Indiana students fail. In a recent study of states’ early education systems, Indiana ranked dead last in the nation for our pre-K education.

Just another in a series of embarrassing rankings that are the result of 15 years of horrendously bad education reform.

Should it not be the people at the top of the public education “food chain” who bear the brunt of the responsibility for the policies they’ve implemented? When a pro sports team has struggles, it’s the people at the top who are normally in the hot seat. They don’t freeze the salaries of the players, they change the management. Our elected officials need to feel the hot seat.

Now I ask you, who is going to hold state policymakers responsible for the dismal results of their education reform policies?

The answer is simple. It is you and me. We have the opportunity to let that pendulum swing freely back in the other direction. If Kentucky can do it, so can Indiana. Educators need to write and oversee education reform. It’s way past time to see that pendulum change directions.

Shane Phipps is an author and teacher in Indianapolis. Contact him at

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