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Funding for Gifted Kids
Q: My third-grader's I.Q. test score was 144 and was evaluated as being Intellectually Gifted and Academically Talented. I, on the other hand, would guess that I am a little above average in intelligence and very thick the rest of the time. Perhaps this explains why I am not able to understand the reason that gifted children are overlooked as being special-needs students.
I recently sent an inquiry to our local public-school system asking for a breakdown in the difference between funds spent on learning-disabled students and gifted students. I learned that the average spent on the LD child was $3,100 annually, for the gifted/talented child, it was $700.
This is apparently true all over the country. Is there a legitimate reason for this? My daughter deserves a much more enriching education than she is receiving. I want to do something to change the present situation.
A: Historically, funding for gifted and talented students has lagged behind that for other categories of special education. In fact, in some states gifted and talented is not even considered a part of special education. Nationally, although a definition of giftedness has existed since the early 70's, mandates for services and funding for programs have been slow in coming.
Right now, Congress is considering legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The current federal Javits research program (named for the late NY Senator Jacob Javits, an early advocate for the gifted and talented) has been included in both the House and Senate versions of ESEA, and the grants-to-states program to support gifted education is included in the Senate bill. Passage of these two measures would authorize a federal grants program to support gifted and talented education, and retain the Javits research program. However, funding for these programs involves a separate process in the Appropriations Committees of both chambers. The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) is requesting $170 million total. This legislation is also supported by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC).
If you support this legislation, you should contact your senator or representative by letter or email. Many email addresses for members of Congress are available at www.senate.gov or www.house.gov. All members of Congress receive mail at a general address: U.S. Senate, Washington, DC 20510 or U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515. You may be able to contact your senators or representatives through their local office or by attending a public forum that many members hold during recess periods. You might also consider writing a letter to the editor of your local paper.
The difference in federal funding between gifted and talented and other areas of special education is largely due to specific legislation and funding that has been received by the latter groups. Advocacy for these groups has been more effective and more vocal.
Locally, you might also want to form a group of parents to advocate for gifted and talented children in your district, or to work with other parents across your state to increase state funding. An excellent reference on advocacy for your gifted child is Joan Franklin Smutny's book Stand Up For Your Gifted Child: How to Make the Most of Kids' Strengths at School and at Home.
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Rita Culross is Associate Dean, College of Education, and Adjunct Professor of Psychology and Curriculum and Instruction at Louisiana State University. Culross has served as the consulting school psychologist for a public school elementary gifted program, and has written a book and several journal articles on gifted education.