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.
Update: The Congress is in the midst of making funding decisions for fiscal year 2015, which begins on October 1. As you recall, the Jacob Javits Gifted & Talented Students Education Act was re-funded in fiscal year 2014 at $5 million, which will fund applied research grants focused on identifying and serving underrepresented gifted students and a National Research and Demonstration Center for the Gifted and Talented. Grant competitions for both grants are underway.
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 Education and Workforce Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
The TALENT Act ("To Aid Gifted and High-Ability Learners by Empowering the Nation's Teachers Act") has been introduced in both houses of the Congress. Senators Grassley (Iowa), Casey (PA) and Mikulski (MD) introduced S.512 and in the House, Rep. Polis (CO-2) and Latham (Iowa-3) introduced H.R. 2338. The TALENT Act would amend ESEA, to support high-ability and high achieving students. The bill focuses on 4 key areas:
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.
Although there has been separate action in the House and Senate towards reauthorizing ESEA, there has been no progress on a compromise proposal that could pass both the House and Senate. One of the major stumbling blocks has been a deep philosophical divide on the appropriate role for the federal government in elementary and secondary education. Adding complexity to the picture are the ESEA waivers from the U.S. Department of Education that allow states to establish accountability measures for student learning that are different from the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) provisions in No Child Left Behind.
NAGC regularly 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!