Lalitha Murali, WATG Board
As a WATG Board member, I sent out an email to my Senators and Representatives about the importance of Gifted Education and allocating proper funds to the program. I also invited them to attend our WATG meeting on October 8, 2019. I was surprised to receive an immediate response from Rep. Knodl saying that he is planning to attend the WATG meeting in Madison. He also mentioned that he would be happy to meet with me. I was delighted to hear that from him.
As promised, he came to my classroom last week and patiently listened to me. I advocated for gifted education and expressed my concern that Wisconsin is not getting enough funding and we are receiving lesser funding when compared to other states. We discussed about GT funding and GT programs in general. I was able to showcase our students’ success because of the GT program and he was very impressed. I also reiterated that by participating in GT grant programs, my students were able to achieve greater results.
Mr. Knodl promised me that he will look into this matter and will come back and share more details. I even made it in his weekly newsletter! What an exciting day for a public school GT Teacher!
If you were at our conference last month, if you read your email, if you saw our Facebook posts - you know that on October 8, WATG leaders presented at the state capitol.
And if you were at our conference, you were asked, encouraged, cajoled into sending an email to your legislators, personally asking them to attend this briefing hosted by Rep. Warren Petryk’s office.
Your emails sent a message! Legislators and aides from both parties filled the room, and most of them stayed for the entire hour and a half. We could tell from the questions asked that this session drew new attention to gifted education. And we were specifically told that, with many meetings going on at any given time at the capitol, a request from a constituent to attend a given meeting makes a big difference.
What can you do next?
WATG leaders will continue to have meetings with individual legislative offices, including one as soon as next month. If your legislator needs more information and would like to meet with WATG representatives, please let us know by emailing email@example.com.
At the invitation of Rep. Petryk’s office, members of WATG’ s board will be presenting in Madison next week. We want to get as many legislators in attendance as possible! You can help us accomplish this by copying and pasting the following, updating the relevant items, and sending it to your state Senator and Representative. Your legislators can be found by entering your HOME address at this link: https://legis.wisconsin.gov/
Dear (Senator or Representative name),
As a resident of (fill in complete HOME address) I would like to request that you attend the briefing listed below on October 8th. This is an issue that is very close to me as (a parent of a gifted child, an educator of gifted individuals, insert your own).
Thank you for your time,
(your info here)
Representative Warren Petryk Invites you to a presentation by the:
Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted
October 8th, 2019
10:30 – 11:30
415 NorthWest, State Capitol
This presentation is an opportunity for members and staff to learn about the current status of gifted students and talent development in the state, including statutory/regulatory information, new survey data and maps from almost every school district in the state, and implications for economic and workforce development. Wisconsin statute 118.35 requires school districts to identify learners and provide them with appropriate services. The mission of the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted (watg.org) is to educate stakeholders and to advocate for the needs of the state's gifted and talented learners from every income and cultural group. The state-wide membership of WATG includes educators, school administrators, parents, business leaders, and higher education representatives.
The meeting will feature a presentation from WATG board members and a representative student. A Q&A will be included.
Handouts will be provided
On August 5, Deb Kucek and Jackie Drummer, Past Presidents of the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted, presented at the Wisconsin Public Education Network Summit in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Their topic was Excellence With Equity: A Talent Development Perspective on Gifted Education. As a result of this presentation, several important networking opportunities evolved.
One of the participants in the Summit workshop was Dan Rossmiller, the lobbyist for the Wisconsin Association for School Boards, who took copious notes and asked insightful questions about gifted students and gifted education. Mr. Rossmiller’s knowledge will be very helpful as WATG moves forward with legislative actions.
Another outcome of the Summit included an emerging partnership with Kim Kaukl, Director and lobbyist for the Wisconsin Rural Schools Association (WiRSA). Discussion with Mr. Kaukl provided valuable insight into how best to communicate with rural districts regarding gifted education and gifted students. WATG continually seeks partnerships with other associations/organizations in order to reach underserved populations. The WiRSA will share information about WATG and our fall conference in its newsletter, and has welcomed WATG to its fall conference, also in October of this year. Plans are being made to present at the WiRSA conference next year.
All in all, August has been a very good month for advocating and networking for the needs of gifted kids across Wisconsin.
Wisconsin’s gifted funding remains stable in the current budget. That’s both good news and bad news.
The good news is that the funding for the Gifted and Talented competitive grant program wasn’t removed from the biennial budget this summer; the bad news is that none of the increases proposed by WATG or the bipartisan Blue Ribbon Commission (p. 9) or the Governor (p. 419) made it through the budget approval process.
For the past several years, Wisconsin’s only state funding for gifted education has been the competitive grant program that awards up to $237,200 per year (in the past, a maximum of $30,000 per applicant) to those who have enough support, time and knowledge within their districts to write and submit a grant. With over 400 school districts in the state, the grant funding doesn’t go very far.
WATG’s leaders and members of the Government Action Committee have been meeting with legislators and other decision-makers over the past several months, increasing awareness of the need for greater state funding for Gifted and Talented education.
But WATG’s leadership cannot do the work alone. Your voice is needed if any change is to happen for Wisconsin’s gifted, talented, and advanced learners.
So how can you help?
We need you to help WATG educate about and advocate for the needs of the gifted in Wisconsin.
Click HERE to sign up for the WATG Advocacy Action Network.
I have worked in gifted education in Wisconsin for more than 20 years. In my opinion we have the best chance in a long time, right now, to bring about fundamental change in how the state serves its gifted students. But we will waste this opportunity if we don’t have many voices advocating for change.
Perhaps you’re thinking “Isn’t that why WATG has an advocacy committee?” Yes, to some extent. That committee, now known as the Government Action Committee (GAC), does do a tremendous amount of volunteer work tracking proposed legislation and the state budget, communicating with legislators, and meeting with other education groups around the state. However, LEGISLATORS LISTEN TO THEIR CONSTITUENTS. After all, that’s who elects them.
We have been told that just a few inquiries about an issue can feel like a landslide in a state legislator’s office. Many of them, even members of the Education committees, never hear about gifted children or gifted education. A single conversation or story can make a difference. We have found that most legislators are shocked to see how little Wisconsin spends on gifted education compared to neighboring states, and they often have no idea how many barriers can be put up when families are just trying to get curriculum and instruction that meets the needs of their children. Many of them believe most of the common myths about gifted children and programs (see http://nagc.org/myths-about-gifted-students).
What happens next? The Joint Finance Committee has completed its hearings, and we are collecting examples of the written and video testimony submitted to JFC by gifted education advocates (see President Cathy Schmit’s column for more on this!). These examples will be available for you to refer to on the WATG website under the Advocacy link (look under Menu and then Get Involved, or go directly to http://www.watg.org/advocacy). What we need now is for YOU to contact YOUR* state senator and your state Assembly representative to let them know that you support WATG’s request for the current state budget ($2.5 million for the existing grant program, with part of that available to help fund a person at DPI to help process the additional grants), and to let them know why you care about appropriate challenge for gifted, talented, and advanced learners. (WATG is developing additional requests, but the current budget request is the most urgent.)
You can (and probably do) advocate with your own school district for better local services. The state level is where many policy decisions are made that affect your local schools. Please extend your advocacy to the state level by calling or emailing your* state legislators. Your Government Action Committee is more than ready to help you with your message! Send questions/requests to Advocacy@watg.org, and please let us know about your calls or emails so that we can keep track of which legislators have been contacted.
Thank you so much for your efforts on behalf of Wisconsin’s gifted students!
Pamela R. Clinkenbeard, Ph.D.
Former president, WATG
Member, Government Action Committee
* Go to http://legis.wisconsin.gov/ and on the right side of the page, you'll see the words, “Who Are My Legislators?” Underneath, there is a space to enter your address. Type in your complete HOME address and click "Find Your Legislators." Their contact information will pop up.
As you probably know, the governor just announced his state budget proposal on February 28. The link to the full 592-page governor's budget (and summary documents) is https://doa.wi.gov/Pages/StateFinances/2019-21-Executive-Budget.aspx.
The request for gifted funding (item 18 on page 419) seems to have been kept at $1 million per year for the competitive grants program, which is what DPI requested last fall. (The actual amount shown on the budget document is $762,800 for each year, FY20 and FY21, but we take that to be the amount of increase: added to the current $237,200/year it adds up to $1M.). Here is the link to the original DPI request https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/policy-budget/pdf/2019-21_Biennial_Budget_Request_Sept_17_2018_FINAL_tech_corrections.pdf- the four pages on gifted education are at document pages 121-124.
Here is the paragraph that accompanies the governor’s request; it simply summarizes the longer DPI budget request language: "Governor recommends providing funding to increase gifted and talented programming capacity in school districts. The Governor also recommends providing districts the flexibility to use grant funds for professional development and modifying the goal of the program to focus on serving historically underrepresented students including economically disadvantaged students, students of color, English Learners and students with disabilities."
While a number of Republican majority state legislators have objected to the governor’s budget, there does seem to be agreement that K-12 education funding will increase, and the Republican-led Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding report in January recommended increasing funding for gifted education (they suggest $2.5 million per year as one option – see item #22). https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/misc/lfb/misc/206_recommendations_of_the_blue_ribbon_commission_on_school_funding_1_4_19.pdf The Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) also recently recommended increased funding for gifted education: https://wasb.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Report-to-the-Membership-on-Resolutions-Adopted-by-the-2019-Delegate-Assembly-FINAL.pdf - see Resolution 19-05.
What next? Here is a link to an overview by WASB of how the budget process works. https://wasblegupdate.wasb.org/2019/02/27/the-governors-budget-address-and-what-happens-next/. WATG’s Government Action Committee is currently developing its advocacy strategic plan; it will probably include support for $2.5 million for the current DPI grants program, promotion of WATG’s “Acceleration Project” (submit your acceleration stories!), and a longer-term emphasis on policy and funding changes that will remove barriers and improve action on behalf of students with gifts and talents.
WE NEED YOUR IDEAS! What would you like to see in Wisconsin? If you are a parent, what policies would help your children thrive in school? If you are an educator, what would make your job easier as you provide appropriate advanced instructional opportunities? If you have experience in another state, what was available there that you wish was available in Wisconsin? Please send your ideas for what you would like to see in gifted education in Wisconsin! Email Advocacy@watg.org.
Besides being a birthday month for dear people in my life, February brings Valentine’s Day, another highlight in the month! 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 currently funded quarter 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!
News From the government action committee