WKU professor confirmed to Kentucky Board of Education after debate on school choice


Jeremy Chisenhall

Gary Houchens, an associate professor at WKU, was confirmed to the Kentucky Board of Education by the Kentucky State Senate on Thursday.  

Houchens was one of nine members confirmed, all nine of which were appointed by Governor Matt Bevin. Houchens’ confirmation came after a lengthy debate about Houchens’ views on school choice.

Houchens said he doesn’t see a conflict between advocating for public education and advocating for school choice.

“We should have a high quality, well-funded, equitable education system that’s available to every family in Kentucky,” Houchens said. “But I also believe that all families should be able to choose the school that’s right for their child.”

Those opposed to Houchens’ confirmation argued that Houchens’ advocation for school choice is bad for public education.

“In Mr. Houchens in particular, we have someone who has publicly warred with our educators,” said Louisville Democratic Senator Morgan McGarvey, according to WKYU. “His social media account,  his op-eds are numerous and clearly outline his version of education in Kentucky. I say ‘education’ because they don’t outline a vision for ‘public education.’”

Houchens said that no school can be perfect for every child, and so he wants to give parents options beyond the public schools. He is advocating for charter schools and scholarship tax credits that come from private donations. 

Houchens was confirmed with a 19-17 vote. He has served on the board of education for three years. 

Houchens has worked in education for 22 years. He previously worked as a social studies teacher, assistant principal, principal and district administrator. He joined WKU’s faculty in 2010 and has served as an educational administration professor.

Digital Managing Editor Jeremy Chisenhall can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @JSChisenhall.