For years, the only financing at the federal level for gifted education has come through the Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Education Act, funded at $7.5 million annually for the past few fiscal years.
That money is now on the verge of being cut, and advocates for gifted education are lobbying Congress to preserve the program.
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. Her group has written to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, asking for reinstatement of the program.
Funding for the Javits program in the coming fiscal year was zeroed out this summer in a measure approved by a House panel that oversees education spending. In the Senate version of the education spending measure, Javitz funding would be rolled into financing for the federal Institute of Education Sciences. The Obama administration also proposed consolidating the Javits grant, but in a different manner. Under the president’s proposal, Javits would have been grouped with the Advanced Placement Program and the High School Graduation Initiative into a $100 million fund called College Pathways and Accelerated Learning, designed to increase graduation rates and college preparedness in high-poverty schools.
But Javits supporters say that without dedicated funding, there is no guarantee that any money would be devoted to issues related to gifted students.
Providing gifted education has no federal mandate, so services for gifted students vary greatly among states and even among districts within a state. Ms. Hymes said the Javits program, despite its small size, helps districts devise programs they would not otherwise be able to create on their own.
In the past few years, it has paid for studies that help train teachers to recognize intellectual giftedness in minority students, poor students, and students learning English—all groups that are traditionally underrepresented in gifted education. The Javits grant also pays for the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, based at the University of Connecticut and at the University of Virginia.
A version of this article appeared in the September 15, 2010 edition of Education Week as Gifted Education Funding Verges on Elimination