Dr. Pam Clinkenbeard, Government Action Committee member; WATG Past President
It's state budget season again! Here is the short version of this article - details follow.
1. SITUATION. Wisconsin provides less funding for gifted education and advanced learners than any other state that provides funding.
2. SUPPORT. WATG has key supporters in the state legislature for increasing that funding in the upcoming state budget cycle, but they will need more colleague support.
3. ACTION. WATG needs YOUR support to make an increase happen; we’ll need effort from individuals, with participation from as many WATG members and friends as possible!
NAGC and the Council of State Directors of Programs for the Gifted recently released their State of the States report, which summarizes a great deal of program, policy, and funding information on gifted education from the 50 states and the District of Columbia. This link takes you to the 200+ page report, a downloadable PDF, and a short executive summary. Since there is no federal policy for gifted education, there is huge variety among the states in their level and type of support for gifted education and advanced learning. So how does Wisconsin stack up?
Approximately half of the states have dedicated state funding for gifted education. Of these states, Wisconsin is at the bottom in amount of funding, with its $237,200/year for small competitive grants, most of which go to some of our regional CESA groups for purposes of student programming or teacher education. In contrast, some states send funding directly to local school districts based on student enrollment. States that are similar to Wisconsin in terms of local control vary considerably within the state in how policies are implemented locally. One thing that most states have in common is a firm emphasis on equity and multiculturalism, at least in written policy.
Although Wisconsin can be considered in the top half of states for funding (given that half of the states do not provide any state-level funding for gifted education), its $237,200 per year contrasts sharply with funding for advanced learners in several other midwestern states. For example, Minnesota spends approximately $13 million per year, Iowa spends $40 million, and Ohio spends $78 million.
Efforts to increase funding in Wisconsin up to now have not resulted in legislative action to do so, but with support and assistance from WATG's 2020 State Legislator of the Year, Rep. Warren Petryk, we are preparing a package of policy and funding requests for the state legislature for the upcoming budget cycle (the biennium beginning July 1, 2021). Earlier in the current biennium, WATG presented a session on gifted students in a state Capitol room packed with legislators and staffers, most of whom were surprised to learn how little their state supports advanced learners. There is scattered but significant support in the Capitol, and WATG is working to coordinate that support in a way that will lead to significant action.
There are several small actions that you can take right now to help improve the situation in Wisconsin. One is to make sure that you know who is representing you in the state legislature (if you don't already know). To find your state legislators, go to the legislature home page. From there, find the section called "Who Are My Legislators?" and enter your HOME address. Your state senator and Assembly representative and their contact information will pop up. It is critical that legislators hear from their own constituents on these issues!
WATG will be providing sample messages in the near future, but one easy communication to make right now is just to send them the link to WATG's new report, Advanced and Accelerated Learning in Wisconsin. Another excellent new WATG resource that you could share is our podcasts. The "Resources" tab on the WATG home page also leads to a wealth of additional information that you might choose to share, including information on equity, specific domains of giftedness and talent, social-emotional issues, etc. Of course, you should feel free to add any personal anecdotes about your own experiences and those of the children you parent or teach to your message.
Finally, you can vote on April 6 for the state Superintendent of Public Instruction. Dr. Deborah Kerr and Dr. Jill Underly are running for this nonpartisan office, and WATG has asked each a series of questions about their support for equitable gifted education. Stay tuned for more information on this race, and on the National Association for Gifted Children advocacy efforts at the federal level. NAGC will be working to keep and increase Javits funding and to support the reintroduction of the "Booker bill," formally known as the Advanced Coursework Equity Act. The support of both Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Mark Pocan from Wisconsin are considered particularly important for federal appropriations for gifted education. WATG will report more on federal activity after participating in the
NAGC Advocacy and Leadership Conference
in late March.
News From the government action committee