Most Kentucky schools will kick off a new academic year next month with 5,000 fewer teachers than what the commonwealth needs.
Kentucky is experiencing a teacher shortage created by educators leaving the profession and fewer college students majoring in education.
While there have traditionally been shortages in foreign languages and special education, some districts have open positions in the most popular disciplines.
Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis says school systems will start classes next month with substitutes or those given an emergency certification.
“There are going to be kids in Kentucky classrooms who have teachers, who while loving and passionate and want to do the best by them, haven’t been appropriately prepared and\or credentialed," Lewis told WKU Public Radio.
Some educators say Kentucky’s current pension deficit and verbal attacks on public education have contributed to the teacher shortage. Dr. Lewis says the narrative around teaching has to change, but he doesn’t believe Kentucky’s political climate has been a factor in the shortage.
“It’s just not true," responded Lewis. "The shortages that we’re experiencing are happening across the country, and even in Kentucky, they’ve been happening for the last five to seven years.”
Lack of certainty around pensions, the pay scale, and a teach-to-test mentality are what some educators blame for the exodus.
The state is preparing to launch a recruitment campaign called “Go Teach KY.” Part of it will enlist the help of colleges and universities to recruit students with undeclared majors into the field. The initiative will also increase awareness about alternative paths to teacher certification.