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Published in Print: June 16, 1999, as Proposal To Boost Funding for Gifted Programs Wins GOP Praise

Proposal To Boost Funding for Gifted Programs Wins GOP Praise

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A proposal to substantially step up federal aid for gifted and talented students won a sympathetic ear from Republican lawmakers during a Senate hearing last week.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, promoted a bill he introduced in March to authorize $160 million per year for five years to help gifted students, arguing that they have not received enough attention at the national level. Currently, only about $6 million in federal aid is specifically earmarked for gifted-and-talented programs.

"It's time that we recognize the nearly 3 million students who are gifted and talented, and get them assistance," Sen. Grassley said in testimony at a June 10 hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

The hearing, on "special populations" of students was one in a series the committee has held on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act scheduled for this year. The committee is expected to hold more hearings later this month and in July.

It is not "elitist" to support gifted students, Mr. Grassley stressed, saying they are found in classrooms across the socioeconomic spectrum. His bill, S 505, would give states "a great deal of leeway" in how to use the money, he added.

The plan drew praise from HELP Committee Chairman James M. Jeffords, R-Vt. "I share your views, and we are going to pay special attention to" this issue during the ESEA reauthorization, Mr. Jeffords said.

Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark., agreed. "I think that the legislation is well-intended, and is needed," he said.

The committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, asked whether programs for gifted students could be used by others, as well. "We ought to raise the bar" for all students, he said.

Although Democrats at the hearing did not indicate whether they would support S 505, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., is among the bill's co-sponsors.

Other Populations

Last week's hearing also explored migrant, American Indian, and bilingual education, as well as efforts to ensure gender equity.

John Cheek, the executive director of the Alexandria, Va.-based National Indian Education Association, lamented that the Clinton administration's ESEA proposal would eliminate several programs for Indian education that have not been funded in the past few years.

"We feel that these programs, if they were sufficiently funded, would go a long way" toward helping Indian students, he said.

Vol. 18, Issue 40, Page 17

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