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Federal Funding for Gifted Education Verges on Elimination

For years, the only funding at the federal level for gifted education has come through the Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Education Act, funded at $7.5 million for the past few fiscal years (compared to the approximately $11.5 billion spent in fiscal 2010 on school-aged children with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.)

Now, that money, once again, is on the verge of being cut, as happened repeatedly during the Bush administration. Advocates for gifted education are scrambling to preserve a program they say is focused on developing gifted programs for underserved students.

The needs of gifted students are too often ignored because educators believe they'll excel without any help, said Kim Hymes, the director of policy and advocacy for the Council For Exceptional Children.

For the upcoming fiscal year, the Javits program was zeroed out earlier this summer in a measure approved by a House panel overseeing education spending. In the Senate version of the education spending measure, Javits would be rolled into the Institute for Education Sciences. Advocates say there's no guarantee that any money would be devoted to issues related to giftedness without dedicated funding.

CEC has written a letter to Sen.Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, asking for reinstatement of the program, and is also circulating another letter among House members, looking for support for dedicated research funding.

"There's a population of students who are not getting the services they need," Hymes said.

The Javits program, named after a former senator from New York, has never been rolling in cash, as federal education programs go. Its peak was in fiscal 2002, when the program was granted $11.25 million. Since then, it has dwindled to its current funding level of $7.5 million.

There's no federal mandate to provide gifted education, so services for gifted students vary greatly among states and even among districts in a state. Hymes said that the Javits program, despite its small size, helps districts develop programs they would not otherwise be able to create on their own.

In the past few years, the Javits program has paid for studies that help train teachers in how to recognize intellectual giftedness in minority students, poor students, and students learning English—all groups that are traditionally underrepresented in gifted education.

The grant also pays for the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, based at the University of Connecticut and the University of Virginia.

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