February is behind us, but the effects of the turbulent weather appear to want to stay. Winter has Wisconsin in a vice grip that has me ready to throw my summer clothes in a suitcase and leave on the next flight south. The song "American Pie" seems to sum up this sentiment quite accurately "but February made me shiver..." and I still am. The good news? It is March now. The entire state is ready to heave a huge sigh of relief as spring tries to creep through the piles of snow. Since March has already started like a lion, days dipping into the negatives and veritable mountains of cumulonimbus snow drifts, I have no doubt that the old saying is true. In like a lion, out like a lamb (ok, my fingers are definitely crossed here).
With this saying and the experiences of the tumultuous month of February there is something to be learned. How can we, as a community of individuals dedicated to advocating for gifted students and education, be more like the weather? Think of the numerous snow storms in February. When one snowflake falls, the change is imperceptible. But when a multitude begins to float down, the change is hard to ignore. If we take advice from the weather then, we can see that working together and working persistently, will create waves. Some days might be sunny and some might be cloudy and gray, but in the end, change happens. It might be imperceptible at first, but gradually over time, things change. look at the improvements and little changes that we have made thus far as gifted education advocates in the last year...
Gifted education has garnered the attention of the Blue Ribbon Commission (for School Funding) who has suggested different funding possibilities including double, quadruple, and ten times the current level of funding we have now for our gifted Wisconsin students. We have met with Department of Public Instruction folks about gifted education and what WATG can do to support DPI’s gifted efforts. We implemented an Acceleration project which has received surveys back from 95% of the state’s school districts. These surveys gauge whether or not school districts have an acceleration policy in order to help us move forward in gifted education for students at a district policy level. The Dells housed the state WATG conference the first week of November. Following this event in early November, people from around the US gathered in Minneapolis for the National Association for Gifted Conference. At both of these events, we discussed the different methods of implementing gifted practices, and what the nuances of advocacy resemble. We learned from one another and taught one another. In January, a delegation of gifted advocates from WATG met in Milwaukee at the State Education Convention. At the convention they presented and spoke with school board members and superintendents from WI about gifted education. These examples are only a portion of the behind the scenes work that is going on for our gifted children!
With all of the steps that we have made as advocates for gifted education, be the wins at a community level, state or on a national level, we are becoming a force to be reckoned with. Slowly we are chipping away at education policies which no longer serve our students. But there is still work to be done. This month, two of our WATG board members will be heading to Washington D.C. to NAGC’s Leadership and Advocacy Conference. Partnerships with other states will be further developed and meetings with Wisconsin legislative offices will help us more deeply cultivate our gifted advocacy efforts. There is always more that can be done, and every seemingly insignificant step, just like every snowflake, makes a difference. And the good news? The difference is seen and experienced in the lives of gifted children across the state and across the nation. Now, who wants to join us at the table to join this movement? There is plenty of space… let’s plan to go in like a lion….
Besides being a birthday month for dear people in my life, Valentine’s Day is also a highlight in my month of February! I decided to capitalize on the theme and take it to a place that perhaps few of us dare to go! I’m going to declare it “Love a Legislator Month”!
Maybe you are wondering why I might say this? Of course I’ll tell you! Right now is a time that our voices might make a difference for our gifted children. When Governor Evers was the State Superintendent of Schools, his proposed education budget for 2019-2020 was $1 million for gifted education. That is a four-fold increase over our current budget. This budget, of course, has to be approved in the legislature. In addition, the Wisconsin Blue Ribbon Commission that is looking at school funding issues has a newly released document that includes supporting gifted education. The levels are $.5 million, $1 million and $2.5 million depending on state resources. This document will go to the legislature for discussion and decision making with the proposed education budget. It is time to contact your representatives and let them know you want them to support gifted funding at a higher level than the current ¼ million in competitive grants.
How do you do this? I’ll start with suggesting that you find out who your representatives are if you don’t know already. Go to http://legis.wisconsin.gov/ Toward the right-hand side of the page, you'll see the words "Find my Legislators." Underneath, there is a space to enter your address. Type in your complete home address and click "Find." You will see a map of your legislative district and photos of your representative and senator in the Wisconsin State Legislature. The Assembly information is right below that.
By clicking on your representative’s name, you can contact him or her directly through that site. Take some time to send a “Valentine” to let them know how important the additional funding is for gifted education in Wisconsin. You could also choose to call their hotline. Every new contact will be counted! Please be part of the count!
Let’s let our representatives know that we care about our gifted kids! If you contact them and want to share your story, please feel free to let us know! We’d love to hear from you!
From the President
"At the beginning of the training process for gifted and regular classroom teachers, they need to learn the skills of the trade."