In the face of a statewide teacher shortage he described as an escalating “crisis,” Kentucky’s education commissioner issued a plea Wednesday urging the state’s residents to consider teaching as a first, second or even third career.

“You can positively impact the lives of children and families now and for generations to come. You can inspire Kentucky’s next generation of scientists, health care professionals, educators, attorneys and more,” Wayne Lewis said during a meeting of the state’s Board of Education.

“What’s missing in Kentucky’s schools? You. Take the next step toward teaching. Kentucky students need you.”

According to the Kentucky Department of Education, thousands of teaching positions remain open across the state. Since Jan. 1, almost 5,000 vacancies have been listed on the Kentucky Educator Placement Service maintained by the department.

Describing the issue Wednesday, Lewis framed it within a national shortage.

“From 2008 to 2017, the U.S. saw a 27 percent decrease in completion of education preparation programs; in Kentucky that decrease was 36 percent,” Lewis said, according to a KDE news release. “This trend is creating a crisis. As schools begin a new year, districts are still clamoring to fill positions.”

This week, Kentucky’s Department of Education unveiled Go Teach Kentucky, its attempt to solve the problem. The campaign’s website at focuses on recruiting high school and college students and professionals looking to switch careers.

The initiative starts as early as high school, with the Educators Rising program and Teaching and Learning Career pathway. Undecided college students, professionals with college degrees and trade workers are also a focus, according to the news release.

As part of the Go Teach Kentucky campaign, the department is also taking applications for the Kentucky Academy for Equity in Teaching, a renewable loan forgiveness program designed to help the pool of classroom teachers become as diverse as the students they teach. Eligibility requirements and applications are available at

For Gary Houchens, a Western Kentucky University professor and Kentucky Board of Education member, stepping up recruitment efforts will play an important role.

“It’s really important because we know that the No. 1 factor in student success … is the quality of the teacher in the classroom,” Houchens said.

However, he also stressed retaining the state’s current teachers, who he said have been gradually pushed out in part by the growing list of demands placed on the profession. Teachers are increasingly expected to “triage” every social problem students bring to school with them, he said.

“Teaching has never been harder than it is right now,” he said.

Low teacher pay isn’t helping either, Houchens said, adding that higher wage fields can draw potential teachers away and a lack of funding for school resources can frustrate current teachers wanting to do the best job they can.

“We have to focus on recruitment, but we also have to engage lawmakers in encouraging them to provide the resources that are necessary,” for better teacher pay and more resources for schools, Houchens said.

Currently, Houchens said, the state only funds 58 percent of school districts’ transportation costs, and funding streams for teacher training, textbooks and new teacher mentorship were eliminated during the last state budget cycle. Houchens said restoring money to those programs would allow school districts the flexibility to give their teachers raises.

“When you do things like that, then you free up more resources within a district,” he said.

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit


Education reporter. Covers education and related issues, focusing primarily on the Bowling Green and Warren County public school districts and Western Kentucky University.

(5) comments


How about the state start paying teachers what they deserve and future generations will start going back into this profession. Pay for their schooling, most teachers were forced to get their masters or they would loose their teaching certificate and that was a giant expense for all. Now teachers are not required to get their masters but there has been no offer of debit forgiveness for the ones who were FORCED to go back and give the state more money for an additional degree that would add a tiny tiny raise to an already tiny salary. I love teaching but I would not encourage my students or my children to become teachers, we are not paid enough, not respected and over tasked.

Bringing in people who are not trained to work/teach children is a mistake. They need the training, our children deserve the best!!! Instead lets get college students excited about this profession with free classes and debt forgiveness.

Le Ecrivain

In warren county, and likewise for other areas, the average teacher makes 49xxx salary before benefits. They are only about 10-15% below attorneys in the state. This is the second highest or possibly the first now, salary for teacher's state in the entire nation. That 49xxx is on ten years of experience. For comparison, Helpdesk people get 12-14 an hour in this state. That is the reverse of most states where teaching is a lower paid profession. Every time a teacher or educator in the state of Kentucky talks about underpayment, they are lying through their teeth, or are woefully ignorant of their own industry.

Le Ecrivain

College students need to think twice. By 2026 there will be 20% fewer kids in Kentucky high school's than last year except for Warren County. Eventually some administrators will stop demanding more pay for fewer students and will consolidate resources and close buildings. WKU offers graduate Teacher education for about 1500 per semester. It's 1/2 to 1/3 of what it costs for non-teachers. Yet non-teacher's who make way less than 50k annually are taking classes with no forgiveness so they can try to avoid economic deprivation down the line. The base economy needs to be fixed instead of constantly catering to one of the most well off demographics in the area.

Le Ecrivain

This state is one of the poorest because of things like that. For example, the tech schools won't let me take 4 classes in Welding just so I can earn a living. Nope, got take my graduate degree that's not a worth a hill of beans and afford a whole new associates program. I can't get a new trade with a few grand worth of classes that I could scrounge together. Nope, got's to do a full program so the coffers can get filled.

The shortages and privation is created by the very academic institutions supposedly making life better.

Le Ecrivain

I don't know why they are pushing this. It is a scheme to get more people to go to full college. You can't take any degree you have and go teach with it in this state -- even a master's degree. You must go to college again and get an entirely new, full two year, master's degree to teach. Other states like Tennessee have rare programs where educated people could fill in the gaps, with only certain classes for example. But not Kentucky.

As long as the only way for educated people to become a teacher is to get a whole new master's degree from scratch, there isn't really a shortage. Supply/Demand rules apply to the need for teachers as well.

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