NAGC advocates in Congress and at the U.S. Department of Education on behalf of the gifted education community to increase federal support for gifted and talented learners. We urge our members and other gifted education supporters to assist these efforts by communicating regularly with their Members of Congress on the needs of gifted students.
The new Congress convened in January and has begun its work. The House and Senate committees on education handle the majority of legislation most relevant to gifted education advocates. Although it's important to reach out to all Members of Congress, we need to do even more with the men and women serving on these committees. Check the committee rosters to determine if your Members of Congress serve on them and if so, you know that it's especially important to begin early to develop a relationship with that office, and the staff person handling education issues. See who serves on the House and Senate Committtees that handle education issues.
It is also very important to reach out to new Members of Congress to educate them about the needs of gifted and talented and high-potential students and how increasing federal support can make a difference. New Members mean the possibility of new supporters! Check the Congressional Directory for new Members, whose names are in italics.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA; formerly called “No Child Left Behind”) is the primary umbrella K-12 federal education law (note that the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) is the other key federal K-12 law). ESEA includes programs large and small including the Title I poverty-related programs, in-service teacher education provisions, and the Javits Gifted & Talented Students Education Act. Federal laws typically receive an overhaul, through a “reauthorization” process, every 6 to 7 years. ESEA has not been reauthorized since 2002.
The House and Senate have each passed a different version of the ESEA reauthorization. The Senate bill (S.1177) includes several important provisions from the TALENT Act. Read more here.
The TALENT Act ("To Aid Gifted and High-Ability Learners by Empowering the Nation's Teachers Act") (S.363) was reintroduced in the Senate by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and John Boozman (R-AR). An identical version was introduced in the House by Representatives Jared Polis (CO-2) and David Young (IA-3). The bills focus on 4 key areas:
Thanks to the leadership of Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, funding for the Javits Gifted & Talented Students Education Act was doubled to $10 million for fiscal year 2015. The increase means that there will be additional research grants and support for the National Center for Research on gifted Education.
Senators Grassley (Iowa) and Casey (PA) are circulating a letter to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education in support of continued funding for the Javits program in Fiscal Year 2016. Please call or email your Senators by March 26 and urge them to co-sign the Grassley-Casey letter. You may also send a letter to your Senators through CEC's legislative action center. Look for the "Javits Dear Colleague" letter.
Note that the President's fiscal year 2016 budget request to the Congress included $9.7 million for the Javits program, the first time this President has requested funds for gifted learners. NAGC is very pleased to see the support and looks forward to working with Congressional leaders to continue the $10 million funding level.
NAGC responds to requests for comment from the U.S. Department of Education on grant programs and other initiatives on which the Department seeks public input. Much of our federal education policy is shaped by the Department through its discretionary authority. The requests for comments are published in the Federal Register. Most recently, NAGC sent a letter to the director of the Institute for Education Sciences (IES), the research arm of the Department, about increasing the amount -- and specificity -- of information available about the condition of education for gifted and talented students
In order to increase support in Washington for gifted and talented students, advocates must do more during the year to keep Members of Congress apprised of the need for, and value of gifted education programs and services to students and the nation. Not only does Congress need to hear your stories, they also need to understand that the availability of services for gifted students varies widely between and within states, which in turn leads to huge gaps in how far our brightest students can go. In addition to sending emails, consider making in-person visits to your Members of Congress in their offices in the home state.
Leadership from the federal government could make a difference to ensuring that high-ability students from every background receive the services they need to reach their full potential. Check out the tools in this section of the website to help you make the case for gifted education and consider joining the Legislative Action Network.
Please visit this space regularly. We are rolling up our sleeves to work on a range of issues. Please join us!