As you may have heard on the news, the Wisconsin legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has not yet voted on the education portion of the proposed state budget for the next biennium (July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2019). It is expected that this vote will happen very soon: perhaps even this week (June 26-30), but probably right after the July 4 holiday. This is your last chance to affect the education budget process for the next two years! Please write your state Assembly representative and state Senator; see a sample message below regarding state funding for gifted education.
It is particularly important for you to write if you live in the district of a member of the Joint Finance Committee (see that list at http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/committees/joint/1680). Not sure who your legislators are? Go to the WI state legislature website here http://maps.legis.wisconsin.gov/ and enter your HOME address in the search box (not work address). You can see links to your state Assembly representative and your state Senator.
SAMPLE MESSAGE (feel free to adapt for your own use)
“Dear [Rep. or Sen. Name]:
I am writing to ask for your support for Wisconsin’s advanced learners K-12. Students with gifts and talents are found in every economic and cultural group, and Wisconsin provides minimal support for these students, especially in comparison with other states. Wisconsin’s funding of only $237,200 per year (for a small grant program) works out to $0.27 per K-12 student. Minnesota state funding (from a recent national survey) was $11,417,865 ($13.75 per student); Iowa, $35,057,950 ($74.77 per student); and Georgia, $367,057,950 ($227.67 per student).
Wisconsin statute (s.118.35) requires school districts to identify advanced learners (“gifted and talented”) and provide them with appropriate services. No funding is provided in school funding formulas to facilitate this mandate. Advanced learners require instruction and services beyond what is typically provided at grade level, just as students with other special needs require targeted instruction and services. Developing the talents of ALL of our students, including Wisconsin’s estimated 105,000 advanced learners, is an economic issue as well as an educational one. The latest issue of Wisconsin School News documents issues related to the “excellence gap” (the disproportion in income levels of those scoring “advanced” on academic achievement).
DPI has requested an increase of $762,800 from the current $237,200 per year (to total $1,000,000 per year), but the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted (WATG) and I ask that you support funding programs for these students at the level of $5,000,000 per year. The DPI request for a modest increase was removed in the governor’s budget and I ask not only that it be reinstated, but increased. The governor’s budget supports DPI’s request that school districts be allowed to apply directly for the grants, so a funding increase would allow many more students to be appropriately challenged.
[Add in any personal story about your child or your students that you wish]
Thank you for your time; I appreciate your consideration of this request.
[name, HOME street address, personal (home) e-mail address optional, phone optional]
Advocacy is defined as the act of pleading for, supporting or recommending; giving aid to a cause.
An advocate is defined as a supporter, backer, promoter, believer, activist, campaigner, or sponsor.
Perhaps you have not thought of yourself as an advocate or one who could make a difference with gifted advocacy work. Or maybe the words advocacyand advocate have taken on a new meaning and perhaps even a new “feeling” for you as one who parents or works with gifted children. Or possibly you’ve tried it and you have gotten nowhere with your efforts. Whatever the case might be for you, we would like to encourage you to begin, start again or keep going with your efforts.
First and foremost, remember that this is not about you! You are not asking for anything for yourself! It is about our gifted children. It is all right for you to “plead for them” and “give aid to the cause”. You are their greatest “believers” and deepest “supporters”. If you are not, then who will be?
There are a couple of things that you can do right now.
Important Chance to Help Frame Wisconsin Gifted Education Long-Term (Update on State Advocacy for Gifted Education 6/26/17) - Pam Clinkenbeard, Advocacy ChairRead Now
The state's draft ESSA plan will be available for public comment through June 30 (and “public” means you!). ESSA stands for the Every Student Succeeds Act (it’s the “nickname” for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, formerly known as No Child Left Behind). The final plan will be roughly as important as No Child Left Behind was in setting priorities and incentives for districts, so this is a major chance to speak up for gifted students.
The federal language of ESSA includes a few mentions of gifted students, but it will be up to the states to say how they will implement support for them in their federal ESSA plans. Wisconsin has drafted their plan with some mention of gifted education; please look over some of the information below and let WATG know if you see any implications, complications or barriers for gifted students in your school district.
The comment site will be open through June 30 and, if you are in the Madison area, there is one feedback session left (Tuesday June 27, 1-3pm, Lussier Community Education Center, 55 South Gammon Road, Community Room). Given news reports on the emphasis of the plan on reducing achievement gaps, "reducing excellence gaps" is one example of good language for you to use in comments. DPI will be submitting their final plan to the U.S. Department of Education in September.
(The state budget process is, of course, still highly important as a current advocacy item. Please see other advocacy articles on the WATG website for how to contact your state legislators and to see a model message to give them.)
Main site for draft plan - see pdfs of brief & full versions, template, etc.
Actual comment site