Archive for December, 2010

Happy New Year – and may it prove so for advocates of Highly Capable Programs!

The upcoming session of the Legislature will be one of the most consequential in recent state history. Budget and revenue problems are vexing; reorganization of government is on the table; revisiting the priorities of government is sure to be an issue. Should already enacted education reform proceed or be delayed? For gifted advocates, the very existence of Highly Capable Programs may be at risk.

To assist you to most effectively lobby the Legislature, here are several links to informative web sites.  For those who have been doing this for a few years, they serve as a refresher course. For those who are new to the work of advocacy, they are an excellent beginner’s course in citizen activism.

The following are from the state Legislature web site.

Citizen’s Guide to Effective Legislative Participation


Overview of the Legislative Process


How a Bill Becomes a Law


How to Testify in Committee


For a quick overview from a prominent advocacy group, go to:


Over the coming weeks we will be providing you with information to assist you in lobbying your Legislators on behalf of Highly Capable Programs. There will also be calls to action that will need your immediate attention: in the Legislature things either seem to drag on or to happen with lightning speed.

And please plan to be in Olympia on February 11, 2011, for Gifted Education Day in Washington 2011 – the ultimate in up close and personal contacts with your Legislators and other advocates. Look for the Handbook coming next week and regular messages about issues and problems.

Thank you for your ongoing support of Highly Capable Programs.

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Mary Ruth Coleman, Ph.D., is a senior scientist, emerita at the FPG Child Development Institute at the The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and research associate professor in the School of Education. Her research focuses on students with exceptional learning needs, in particular students with learning disabilities and students with gifts.  She recently served on the Washington State Highly Capable Program Technical Working Group convened by the legislature.  Dr. Coleman provided this response on hearing the news of the possible elimination of highly capable program funding in Washington State.

“Washington State took a huge leap forward when the legislature determined that appropriate education for students with gifts and talents was part of their “basic education”.  The legislators found that access to accelerated and enriched learning, in their area(s) of strength, is a necessary feature of an education for students who have been identified as gifted.  This landmark finding places Washington State in the vanguard of Educational Reform showing an understanding that appropriate education for all students must include opportunities to nurture and support learning at the highest levels.  In placing Washington State in this leadership position the legislators have laid the foundation for the following positive outcomes:

1.  Research-based teaching practices, drawn for gifted education, that can be use to enhance learning for students in their strength areas, and this will have a positive impact on all students as a rising tide of best practice.
2.  Strength-based approaches to teaching and learning that nurture high-potential as part of every students “basic education” and should help Washington State address the disproportionate underrepresentation of culturally/linguistically diverse, economically disadvantaged and twice exceptional learners within gifted education.
3. High-end learning with a focus on expanding excellence should lead to a more highly qualified work-force ready to address the challenges we currently face and the one we will certainly face in the future.

The leadership that Washington State has taken on this issue sets the bar high for other States who wish to focus on students’ strengths and offer opportunities for students to achieve at the highest level.  To undermine this leadership now by eliminating funding would be a major step backwards and the opportunity for true strength-based school reform would be lost.”

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As concerned parents and advocates, we have put together this set of talking points to help you navigate your children’s (and possibly your own) reaction to all the news of proposed cuts to highly capable programming.  Information is everywhere, both in the media and in our school communities, and can be overwhelming.  Highly capable children often have a heightened sense of empathy and may need special emotional supports as they may feel a deep personal connection to the specific impacts of these proposed budget cuts.  We welcome your feedback and thoughts on how to discuss these issues with kids.   You can download the document here.

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“Failure to help the gifted child is a societal tragedy, the extent of which is difficult to measure, but which is surely great. How can we measure the sonata unwritten, the curative drug undiscovered, the absence of political insight? They are the difference between what we are and what we could be as a society.” — Dr. James J. Gallagher, University of North Carolina

The Governor has just proposed to eliminate all state highly capable program funding for the next two years.  This is the third time she’s made such a proposal.  Her last attempt was rebuffed by the legislature during the just completed special session only five days ago. 

Highly capable programming is not something extra to be funded only when times are good.  As the legislature declared in ESHB 2261 in 2009, “for highly capable students, access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction is access to a basic education.” The Washington Coalition for Gifted Education will work together with families of highly capable students and advocates for highly capable programming across the state to oppose the Governor’s short sighted decision.  The first step in our campaign will be to write letters to the editors of our local newspapers protesting this action and sharing the important role highly capable programming has had in the education of our students

You can find contact information for your local paper in the print edition of the paper or at the paper’s website. The Secretary of State also maintains a listing of newspaper websites at http://www.sos.wa.gov/library/wa_newspapers.aspx.  Most papers will provide contact information on an “About Us” or “Contact Us” page.  Many will accept letters to the editor submitted via email, while others will provide a mailing address. 

If you have never written to a paper before, the National Association for Gifted Children’s advocacy web site at http://www.nagc.org/index.aspx?id=3148 has some excellent suggestions and examples of where to begin.  Be sure to adapt your letter to reflect your personal experiences and the issues facing highly capable programming in Washington State.

Some key issues in Washington are:

  • Full funding of Highly Capable Programs in the 2011 – 2013 biennial budget.
  • Full implementation of the education reforms promised in ESHB 2261 beginning in September 2011.  Under ESHB 2261, highly capable program services will become a mandated part of basic education. This places them within the protections of basic education regarding funding, and it is vital that implementation proceed as scheduled. The Governor’s budget proposal proposes to not fund a program which will be protected as part of basic education.
  • Highly Capable Programs are an essential part of securing Washington’s economic future. This is a high-tech state and gifted programs are the place where STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) talents are best nurtured. Funding highly capable programming is an investment in our state’s future.

This is just the first step in our campaign for highly capable programming.  You can stay current with the latest activities of the Washington Coalition for Gifted Education at our website, https://wcge.wordpress.com or by becoming a fan on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/wagifted

Thank you for your continuing advocacy for our Highly Capable Learners!

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The state Legislature has passed the second supplemental budget bill and it restores highly capable funding to the level in ESSB 6444 – $18,377,000 for two years, including $170,000 per year for Centrum and $90,000 per year for Future Problem Solving/Destination ImagiNation. That is, the 6.287% across-the-board-cut ordered by the Governor this fall is rescinded.

This bill plugs only half of the budget hole so there will have to be either another supplemental when the next legislative session starts on January 10, or another round of across the board cuts. For those interested in the details, you can get the bill and the explanation here. Click on Summary.

The Governor’s budget proposal for the 2011-2013 biennium is due out no later than Wednesday, December 15th. When we see what is in it for highly capable funding, we will have a better idea of what advocates will need to do.

This was just an opening skirmish in what is likely to be a bruising contest for limited funds. Your outstanding efforts in contacting Legislators have brought us this far. We will need additional efforts in the coming weeks and months. If you have a newly elected Legislator(s), make every effort to contact him/her to begin their education about gifted. Newly elected Legislators will not have Olympia email addresses or phone numbers until they are sworn in on January 10. Many campaign web sites are still active and contain contact local information.

And do make plans to be in Olympia for Gifted Education Day on February 11, 2011. Your presence is vital to our efforts.

You can follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/wagifted or on our blog at https://wcge.wordpress.com

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There is a face-off going on down in Olympia. The Governor v. the Legislature. The Governor v. her own Democrats. The Democrats v. the Republicans. The House v. the Senate. And caught right in the middle is funding for Highly Capable Programs in the supplemental budget.

It appears there will be a special session beginning Friday to consider the supplemental budget, provided the five parties to the discussions get their act together. We can’t wait to see if they do. We need you to take action immediately to make known your wishes regarding Highly Capable funding for 2009-2010.

The Governor made across-the-board cuts in November. That resulted in 6.3% cuts to Highly Capable Programs:  $561,000 from categorical funding to districts, $11,000 from Centrum and $6,000 from FPS/DI, totaling $578,000 and leaving an appropriation of $8,628,000 for the year.

Now the Governor proposes to totally eliminate all highly capable funding retroactive to September 2010.

The House Democrats have published a detailed list of cuts which appears to include the already made across-the-board cuts the Governor made last month. Since no explanatory notes or material were released with the house democrat list, we are guessing that the cuts in it to HCP are the ones already made in the across-the-board cuts since they match to the dollar.

The House Republicans issued a statement saying “no retroactive cuts” so we are assuming that there will be no cuts to HCP such as proposed by the Governor, but since their proposal does not contain any detail, we are left up in the air as to whether or not there might be other cuts to HCP.

The detailed list of the Senate Republicans does not include any cuts to HCP.

The Senate Democrats are not yet ready to release their list of cuts but majority leader Lisa Brown did say “We must keep in mind that the education we provide to our young people represents their opportunity for their future.” Will this save HCP funds? Maybe.

Please, please, contact your legislators today and tell them you oppose any further cuts to Highly Capable Program funds. Appropriate services for highly capable learners are not a nice add-on we can fund when times are good and drop when times are lean. They are an essential component of a strong state economy, an investment in the state’s future. Some other points you can make are:

• Interrupting educational programs in mid year by defunding them as proposed by the Governor is disruptive to students and districts alike. Contracts have been signed, students are in programs, teachers are committed, some districts would need to either completely reorganize their activities or find local funds to continue them as they are now established.

• Eliminating HCPs for one year when they will become a mandated part of basic education in Sept. 2011 is counterproductive. It will cost more to reestablish these programs than will be saved by eliminating funding for the entire year.

Legislators are in Olympia this week for caucus meetings and some joint committee meetings.  In order to contact them there, go to http://www.leg.wa.gov/LIC/Pages/hotline.aspx and follow the suggestions as to method. If you elect to use the Hotline, write out your short message in advance and read it to the operator so it says exactly what you want it to say. Operators will transcribe your oral message and send it on to the Legislator.

For the sake of our children, make contact today.

To get the most recent, up-to-the minute news, follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/wagifted or on our blog at https://wcge.wordpress.com

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Several parents from Seattle have sent the attached letter to Governor Gregoire, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, and members of the Seattle Legislative Delegation.  They’ve also created an on-line petition that you can sign in addition to writing or calling your own representatives.  We expect to hear some specifics on a special session by sometime Thursday, but you need to have contacted your representatives before then to make sure your voice is heard.

We’re working to have more information available later today.  It is critical that you act now to show your support for highly capable programming.  If you are not heard today, there may not be a tomorrow.

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