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Gary Houchens
Bowling Green, KY
I am a former teacher, principal, and district administrator now serving as Professor of Educational Administration, Leadership, & Research at Western Kentucky University. In 2016 Governor Matt Bevin appointed me to the Kentucky Board of Education for a 4-year term of service.
Recent Activity
When I was first appointed to the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) in 2016, I mused on the irony. As a professor of education administration, I was accustomed to telling my students (all aspiring school principals) to pay little attention to education policy or the workings of the state legislature... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at School Leader
Leo, I really appreciate your thoughtful comment here. You are right that Montessori and classical education are different in significant ways. But I think there's more compatibility here than meets the eye. For example, I think the Montessori curriculum is a lot more specific than people sometimes realize (though perhaps not as comprehensive as classical tends to be), and while children move at their own pace in Montessori, I think there's an implicit assumption that most children will eventually master a specific body of knowledge and skills. So I think it's possible to substitute the classical curriculum for the Montessori curriculum but still utilize features of Montessori like student choice, long work times, and flexible pacing. At any rate, I'd love to see more experiments in this approach, both in homeschool and traditional school settings.
Beverly, I'm not sure how your comment relates to the post above, but I'm always eager to engage in discussion on charter schools. First, I would agree with you that choice is not a panacea. We should have more choices because it works, it is fair, and it's more consistent with how we deliver other highly personal public services. Please see more about how charter schools work, and the argument for school choice, here:
On Monday, Kentucky's Interim Commissioner for Education Wayne Lewis issued the results of a management audit of the Jefferson County Public Schools, along with his recommendation that the district be placed under state management. Since then I have received many calls, texts, and emails from citizens expressing their opinions about... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2018 at School Leader
The Kentucky General Assembly just wrapped up its most contentious legislative session in modern history, marked by ferocious public debates about state employee pension reform and education spending. Public school teachers flexed their enormous political muscles and forced a compromise pension bill that left the system largely intact for current... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2018 at School Leader
Glenn, much of what you say here is simply not true under Kentucky law. Charters in KY will have to take and serve all students, including those with disabilities. Lotteries will ensure that charter schools cannot be selective in who they admit. And charters must abide by the exact same accountability framework as traditional public schools. Read more here:
Public domain image of students greeting President Obama during a visit to Martin Luther King, Jr. Charter School in New Orleans. As Kentucky tries to figure out what to do about charter schools, one concern I keep hearing is that charters open the door to for-profit entities to make money... Continue reading
Posted Apr 23, 2018 at School Leader
Georgi, Dr. Pruitt supported charter schools for Kentucky. For me, school choice is not about privatization. It's about giving low-income families additional options, which is something affluent families already enjoy. I believe we can do that and still have great public schools. See my other posts on this blog for more information as to why I am a school choice supporter and public school advocate.
Lynn, I cannot speak for other Board members. Whatever they might have said elsewhere or on other occasions, I was the only vote against this agreement.
As a member of the Kentucky Board of Education I went to Frankfort today to support Dr. Stephen Pruitt. I earnestly hoped that he could continue in his role as Commissioner of Education. Sadly, the meeting concluded with an agreement between Dr. Pruitt and the Board for his resignation. I... Continue reading
Posted Apr 17, 2018 at School Leader
One of the many things I love about my work is the chance to partner with colleagues from across Western Kentucky University and beyond on a variety of projects. The fruit of one of those collaborations was recently published in the NASSP Bulletin, peer-reviewed research journal of the National Association... Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2018 at School Leader
Richard, schools have always had to supplement with fundraising, and charter schools are no exception. For more on the argument for charters, and especially on the argument that they "drain money" from traditional public schools, see this post and the embedded links:
The image above is from the website of East End Preparatory Academy, a successful Nashville charter school serving high numbers of low-income minority students. Kentucky charters may provide similar opportunities for some our most vulnerable students. In 2017, the legislature passed a law making Kentucky the 44th state to allow... Continue reading
Posted Apr 8, 2018 at School Leader
If such were the "government's plan" then it failed spectacularly since charter students were denied the chance to bring their education dollars with them to a new school and education spending was actually expanded.
In a bizarre reversal of the commitment lawmakers made last year to make Kentucky the 44th state with charter schools, the final state budget approved earlier this week includes no funding mechanism to allow education dollars to follow students when they choose to attend one. This makes it highly unlikely... Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2018 at School Leader
Yesterday the Kentucky legislature quickly passed pension reform. It came after months of bitter fighting in the media and Frankfort over what changes should look like. I haven't had a chance to study what's in the bill outside of what's been reported in the news, but here are some initial... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2018 at School Leader
Update, 3/15/18: I've been asked a couple of times for my reaction to Governor Bevin's remarks yesterday wherein he attacked protesters against pension reform proposals as "selfish" and whether I would amend any of my thoughts below based on his comments. Let me say first of all that I don't... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2018 at School Leader
Kentucky's public pension system is in crisis. The Kentucky Teacher Retirement System alone has $14.5 billion in liabilities, and as program costs skyrocket the rest of the state budget, which is already facing a massive shortfall, is getting squeezed beyond recognition. With tragic irony, the cost of paying for teachers'... Continue reading
Posted Feb 23, 2018 at School Leader
I recently had the pleasure of spending an hour discussing scholarship tax credits with Drew Perkins, host of the TeachThought podcast, and Anna Baumann, senior policy analyst with the Kentucky Economic Policy Center. You can access the podcast and related resources here. I discussed the issue of scholarship tax credits... Continue reading
Posted Feb 16, 2018 at School Leader
It's National School Choice Week, and I was honored to serve as keynote speaker at yesterday's first-ever Western Kentucky School Choice Rally. Over 400 students and adults from across the region came to Madisonville to celebrate school choice. The Madisonville Messenger provided a nice summary of the event and our... Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2018 at School Leader
I've become convinced that if we want to unleash meaningful innovation in education and create more personalized learning environments for students, we have to give more families the chance to choose a school that best meets their child's individual needs. For far too long we've expected public schools to be... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2018 at School Leader
Kentucky educator groups have finally produced some suggestions for reforming our ailing pension system. Initial reactions to Governor Bevin’s proposed pension bill largely took the form of denying there was actually a pension crisis or arguing that no changes should be made other than to pour more money into the... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2017 at School Leader
Kentucky policy leaders have released their proposed changes to the ailing pension system and the reaction from state educators has been swift and ferocious. Educators have claimed the reforms will “destroy public education” while Governor Matt Bevin has shrugged off fears about mass retirements as “nonsense” and called reform critics... Continue reading
Posted Oct 29, 2017 at School Leader
Near the beginning of his book, David Didau says he doesn’t actually want to convince you that everything you know about education is wrong (though a fair amount of it actually is), but rather “that you will consider the implications of being wrong and consider what you would do differently... Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2017 at School Leader
At its August 2017 meeting, the Kentucky Board of Education unanimously approved a second reading on a regulation launching a new statewide school accountability system. It was the culmination of 18 months of work by the Commissioner of Education and Kentucky Department of Education staff to gather feedback from across... Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2017 at School Leader