The Kentucky Department of Education wants to attract more diverse teachers into the field with a new renewable loan forgiveness program.
Kentucky residents enrolled in one of the state public universities’ education programs beginning this semester are eligible to apply, department and higher education officials said in a Thursday afternoon announcement. A $1 million appropriation from the state will pay for the program.
Named the Kentucky Academy for Equity in Teaching, the program aims to boost numbers of underrepresented groups in the classroom. Applicants need to demonstrate financial need, identify with a racial minority group or be a first-generation college student, among other options, to qualify.
Commissioner Wayne Lewis hopes the program will attract new and diverse teachers to the profession during a time when some districts, including Jefferson County Public Schools, struggle to find and retain teachers.
Tackling achievement gaps, especially the one between black and white students, is one of Lewis’ top goals for the department. While not a silver bullet, bringing more minority teachers into the classroom could help boost achievement and reduce dropout rates and behavior issues for students of color.
Sherry Powers, Eastern Kentucky University’s education dean, said research shows positive effects on minority students if they have even one minority teacher while in school. Having minority teachers in the classroom, she said, can “erode disruptive stereotypes.”
Applicants working toward their initial teaching certification can receive up to four semesters of financial aid. If they’re working toward their bachelor’s degree, they can receive $5,000 a semester for a total of $20,000. If they’re working on a master’s degree after earning an undergraduate degree without a teaching certificate, they can receive $2,500 a semester for a total of $10,000.
In turn, graduates will have to teach one semester in a Kentucky school to forgive one semesters’ worth of loans.
Students currently enrolled in an education program for the spring 2019 semester can apply now until Feb. 12 to try for the program.
The new program is similar to the former Minority Educator Recruitment and Retention scholarship program.