NAGC Legislative Advocacy
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 supporters to assist these efforts by communicating regularly with their Members of Congress on the needs of gifted students. We have prepared an advocacy toolkit to help you gather the information you need to make the case for gifted education; we also offer suggestions to help supporters be even more effective advocates at the federal, state, and local levels.
NAGC also has a grassroots initiative -- where individual advocates work directly with NAGC to educate Members of Congress on issues of concern to the gifted education community. We call this initiative the Legislative Action Network and we invite you to be part of it. Click here for more information.
The 113th Congress convened on January 3, 2013, and will continue for two years. New start, new Members, new staff. The 113th Congress has more than 100 new members, which mean new opportunities, but hard work for advocates. It's time to begin the rounds of introducing, or re-introducing ourselves to our Members of Congress and their staff , letting them know about the gifted students in their districts and states, and raising awareness of how federal legislation and funding can make a difference for them and for the nation. Visit www.house.gov and www.senate.gov for email addresses and other contact information for your Members of Congress. We have also posted a printable version of the Congressional Directory. Consider making in-person visits to their district offices in the home state.
Legislation expires at the end of each Congress if it is not enacted. Therefore, NAGC's legislative initiatives must be renewed in the 113th Congress. 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.
TALENT ACT: S.512 & H.R. 2338
NAGC is pleased to say that 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 U.S. Congress. In March, Senators Grassley (Iowa), Casey (PA) and Mikulski (MD) introduced S.512 and in June Rep. Polis (CO-2) and In Latham (Iowa-3) introduced H.R. 2338. The TALENT Act would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), to support high-ability and high achieving students. The bill focuses on 4 key areas:
Change the Assessment and increase Public transparency to ensure that schools can pinpoint the level at which students have mastered state standards and by reporting the students who perform at the advanced levels, disaggregated by subpopulations, on state report cards
Emphasize classroom practice and educator preparation through professional development for all teachers and other school personnel so that more educators are able to identify and meet the needs of gifted students, and by requiring states and districts to include gifted students in their plans for use of federal Title II funds
Focus on underserved populations and confronting the national excellence gap, by including gifted students and high-ability students not formally identified for gifted education services in state and district plans for Title I funds, by allowing federal rural school funds to be used for teacher training in gifted education pedagogy, and by reporting on the achievement gaps at the advanced level between student subpopulations
Continue research and dissemination of best practices in gifted education to support effective teaching and learning for gifted students.
Click here for more information about the legislation.
When the 112th Congress adjourned, there had been action towards reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), but no 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. The House passed several individual bills that addressed segments of ESEA; the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee approved a comprehensive bill in 2011, but that bill never reached the Senate floor for approval.
Adding complexity to the picture are the waivers granting flexibility on ESEA that more than 30 states have received from the U.S. Department of Education. Among other issues, the waivers establish different combinations of accountability, and how to measure it, for student achievement under ESEA, which will have an impact on any compromise proposals that might be crafted in the Congress.
The education community will move ahead in the 13th Congress assuming that compromise is possible and that there will be a reauthoriation bill moving in both the House and Senate. All of us, including gifted education advocates, have a lot of work to do to educate all the new committee members on the needs of gifted and talented students. In addition, the Senate HELP Committee has had a change in leadership. Due to republican party rules in the Senate, Senator Mike Enzi (WY) has stepped down as Ranking Minority Member of the committee and has been replaced in that position by Senator Lamar Alexander (TN).
U.S Department of Education
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. NAGC has also submitted comments on proposed priorities for IES as well as on proposed generalized priorities for the various discretionary grants funded by the Department. Click here to read the IES letter and the discretionary grants letter.
President's Blueprint for ESEA Reauthorization: In 2010 President Obama submitted a proposal for federal K-12 education reform to congress in a 40-page document entitled A Blueprint for Reform. The blueprint offers few details on how the changes called for would be designed and implemented and offers a mixed picture on gifted education. The Javits Gifted & Talented Students Education Act would be combined with Advanced Placement and School Dropout Reform into a single grant program (similar to the President's fiscal year 2011 and 2012 budget requests), which if adopted, would essentially end the Javits program in its current configuration of research and demonstration grants plus the National Research Center. However, the Blueprint also includes a statement that more elementary and middle school students need access to gifted and talented education. This may be the first time in decades that a president has specifically called on Congress to address the needs of gifted students. Click here to read NAGC's response.
Continuing Communication with Congress
In order to increase our support in Washington, we must do more during the year to keep Members of Congress apprised of the need for, and value of gifted education programs and services. Not only do they 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. Every Member of Congress has a website at www.house.gov or www.senate.gov and each has either an email address or an online email form for constituents to use to share their views.
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 some of the materials in the advocacy toolkit to help you develop letters-to-the-editor of your local paper. Members of Congress all pay close attention to the issues that appear locally, so this is a great place to begin.
Please visit this space regularly. We' are rolling up our sleeves to work on a range of issues. Please join us!
Click here for information from the 112th Congress
Click here for information from the 111th Congress
Click here to read about the Higher Education Act legislative victory in the 110th Congress.