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Highly capable programs have been basic education since 2009. It’s past time for the Legislature to fulfill its obligation to these students, and today the House joins the Senate in missed opportunities.

While the Senate Republican budget proposal last week required a little study to fully decipher how highly capable funding and services would be affected, the House Democratic proposal is much harder to analyze. In our most generous interpretation, it’s incomplete. At worst, the House Democratic proposal completely overlooks the persistent and pervasive state level under funding of gifted education and provides only minimal maintenance level increases to state funding levels.

In 2018 and 2019 in their budget proposal (PSHB 1067), total state funding for gifted education remains essentially unchanged from status quo levels, allocating about $10.6 million in FY 2018 and $10.8 million in FY 2019. Districts are now prohibited from using local levy funds to cover costs of basic education as they’ve had to do for years, and this “maintenance level” funding will mean that students will see a catastrophic decrease in the amount of funding available to provide highly capable services. By our most conservative estimates that represents a cut of about $7 million annually from what was spent in the 2015-1016 school year, if everything else remained the same.

The problem is more complicated than that. Funding for highly capable services is based on a formula that involves the percentage of students eligible, a number of hours per week to be funded for each student, and an average teacher salary. That calculation arrives at an amount to be allocated to each district that they can use to provide highly capable services as they see fit. In a related bill referenced in their budget proposal (HB 2185), House Democrats are proposing no change to the percentage of students eligible, a slight increase in the number of hours per week to be funded, and an increase in average teacher salary.

Based on our rough calculations, that formula should drive about $17.7 million in gifted funding in 2017-2018, $22.4 million in gifted funding in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020, and $26.6 million in gifted funding in 2020-2021. Clearly, that doesn’t match up to what is allocated in their budget proposal.

At a minimum, the state needs to allocate an amount that covers the actual costs of providing highly capable services to the 63.5K+ actual identified students that districts have been paying with a combination of state dollars and local levy funds. To provide for improvements in the program that are essential to address issues of equity will require more. Providing the professional development necessary to build teacher capacity in the identification and service of gifted students costs money. Making changes to our referral and identification processes costs money. Providing services to all of the students who are identified costs money.

Right now, we’ll call this plan incomplete. If corrections are not offered soon, that incomplete could very quickly become a failing grade.

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We’re still digesting the Senate Republican budget that was released an hour ago, but initially we have many more questions than answers.

In 2018, funding for gifted education remains essentially unchanged. Since districts will now be prohibited from using local levy funds to cover costs of basic education, by our most conservative estimate that represents a cut of about $7 million from what was spent in the 2015-1016 school year.

In 2019, funding for gifted education is “doubled” (total state funding is doubled, but the total amount of state and local dollars combined that were spent in 15-16 is not doubled). Here’s where it gets tricky. The budget says that districts will receive $1K per highly capable student, and allocates a total of $22 million. That works out to 22K students funded – based on current enrollment and their actual formula in statute, it should actually be 25,530 students funded, which would mean less than $1K per student.

In 2015-2016, over 63.5K students received highly capable services, an increase of 8K+ more students than had been served in 2014-2015, and expanding and maturing gifted programs across the state could result in another increase for the current school year.

A formula that funds 22K students, when more than 61K students are identified and served is not ample, and the services that $22 million will provide will not be equitable.

Providing the professional development necessary to build teacher capacity in the identification and service of gifted students costs money. Making changes to our referral and identification processes costs money. Providing services to those students costs money.

If we assume that there is no cap on the number of students to be served, the state would actually be allocating about $346 per student. In 2007, before gifted services became a part of our state’s definition of basic education, when only about 2/3rds of districts offered services, and primarily to students in grades 3-6, the state allocated about $400 per student.

As we said at the beginning, there remain many more questions than answers.

(Edited on 3/27 to reflect new enrollment numbers from OSPI that showed 63,551 students receiving highly capable services in 2015-2016.)

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Governor Inslee has declared February 2, 2017, Gifted Education Day. We encourage you to remind your legislators that gifted education is basic education, and share with them what highly capable services mean to your family. Use the District Finder on the Legislature’s website, or call the Legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000.

gifted-education-day-in-washington-2017

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We have an exciting day of advocacy scheduled for Thursday, February 2nd.

Our program begins at 10am in the Columbia Room.

Our morning events will include Gayle Pauley, Assistant Superintendent for Special Programs and Federal Accountability, and Jody Hess, Highly Capable Program Supervisor from OSPI, to talk about the amazing collaborations going on right now to bring groundbreaking professional development opportunities to educators across the state. Their work will have immediate impacts on the way highly capable learners are identified.

We’ll also hear from Camille Jones, Washington State’s 2017 Teacher of the Year, about the highly capable students she teaches in the Quincy School District, students who have historically been underrepresented in gifted programs.

Rounding off our featured speakers is René Islas, Executive Director of the National Association of Gifted Children. NAGC has recently launched a Giftedness Knows No Boundaries campaign that is a perfect match with our work in Washington State.

We expect many attendees will have capitol tours or meetings scheduled with legislators. We will leave ample time between our morning and afternoon events for you to explore and advocate.

At 1:30pm, action will move to the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee where there will be a work session on highly capable. We expect our portion of the hearing to begin at about 2pm. Pauley, Jones, and Islas will have 30 minutes to inform and answer questions from the members of the Committee to help them better understand the needs of highly capable learners.

Reminder: parking is limited on the campus so consider parking in one of the satellite lots and using DASH.  Parking on both the campus and satellites can be expensive so come prepared. If you use DASH, there is a convenient stop right outside the door nearest the Columbia Room.

Can’t join us in Olympia on February 2nd?

The Washington State Constitution states: “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” It also requires that the system be uniform across the state and funded through regular and dependable sources. in 2007 The McCleary lawsuit was brought forward against the state for its failure to fulfill its paramount duty, and the State Supreme Court ruled in 2012 in favor of the plaintiffs, finding that the state was not meeting its educational obligation to the more than 1 million public school children in Washington.

A central issue in the court’s McCleary decision is the unconstitutional reliance on local levies, which are neither regular nor dependable, to fund basic education. As advocates for the highly capable students of Washington, we are working for full funding of the Highly Capable Program. The Legislature must pass a plan by the end of this session to comply with the State Supreme Court’s order.

Senate Republicans have offered one plan, SB 5607. House Democrats have just released their plan, HB 1843. Our initial readings of each plan finds that each falls short of ample funding for highly capable services. Each relies on an old, insufficient, and somewhat arbitrary formula for establishing eligibility for highly capable funding. We recommend the state follow the recommendations of the 2010 Highly Capable Program Technical Work Group and fund highly capable services for 5% of a district’s enrolled population, an amount close to historical levels of students served in Washington, and one that aligns with the recommendations of the National Association for Gifted Children.

If you can’t join us in Olympia for Gifted Education Day, contact your legislators by letter, phone — the hot line is 1.800.562.6000 — or email on or about February 2nd and urge them to fund highly capable services at 5% of enrollment.

Share your personal experience as a parent or your child’s experience. Your personal story on the impact of funding inequities is a powerful way to highlight the need for a solution.

To find and contact your Legislators, use the District Finder on the Legislature’s website.

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Governor Inslee has declared January 29th, 2016 Gifted Education Day. We encourage you to remind your legislators that gifted education is basic education, and share with them what highly capable services mean to your family. Use the District Finder on the Legislature’s website, or call the Legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000.

proclamation 2016

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We have a full program scheduled for Friday, January 29.

Program begins at 9am or as close to it as we can manage. Please help us by being on time.

Deb Merle, Governor Inslee’s chief education advisor; Jody Hess from the Highly Capable Program (HCP) office at the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI); and Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn are scheduled as speakers and will be open to questions from the floor.

Supt. Dorn will be the recipient of a Certificate of Appreciation for being the only state official who has proposed substantial increases in HCP funding and accepts the findings of the Highly Capable Program Technical Working Group. He has a very tight schedule on Friday so please try to be on time. He is scheduled to speak at 9:15.

Reminder: parking is limited on the campus so consider parking in one of the satellite lots and using DASH.  Parking on both the campus and satellites can be expensive so come prepared. If you use DASH, there is a convenient stop right outside the door nearest the Columbia Room.

Can’t join us in Olympia on January 29th?

The Washington State Constitution states: “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” It also requires that the system be uniform across the state and funded through regular and dependable sources. in 2007 The McCleary lawsuit was brought forward against the state for its failure to fulfill its paramount duty, and the State Supreme Court ruled in 2012 in favor of the plaintiffs, finding that the state was not meeting its educational obligation to the more than 1 million public school children in Washington.

A central issue in the court’s McCleary decision is the unconstitutional reliance on local levies, which are neither regular nor dependable, to fund basic education. Compensation is one of the most significant areas where local dollars are backfilling inadequate state funding. According to OSPI data, between the 1987-88 and 2012-13 school years, state allocations went from covering 99% of salaries to only 77%.

As advocates for the highly capable students of Washington, we are working for full funding of the Highly Capable Program. Currently the state’s funding covers only 15% of the actual costs of the program. Districts vary widely in their ability to raise local levy funds. Districts thus vary in their ability to provide the required HC Programs. The system is not uniform and funding is not regular and dependable.

If you can’t join us in Olympia for Gifted Education Day, contact your legislators by letter, phone — the hot line is 1.800.562.6000 — or email on or about January 29th and urge them to provide ample, equitable and stable funding.

Share your personal experience as a parent or your child’s experience. Your personal story on the impact of funding inequities is a powerful way to highlight the need for a solution.

To find and contact your Legislators, use the District Finder on the Legislature’s website.

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Washington promises a continuum of Highly Capable Program services K-12 to identified gifted students as part of basic education. These students can be found in school districts large and small, and across all demographic groups. Our districts seek to find and serve each of these students.

Inclusion in basic education has resulted in the identification and support of increasing numbers of gifted students from all backgrounds, particularly those from previously underserved populations. Yet districts continue to struggle to identify and serve all their eligible students due to a lack of adequate and equitable state funding.

Amid growing challenges—changing demographics, increasing diversity of the student population, and limited fiscal resources—addressing the needs of gifted students is a real issue. Underserved gifted students may include students who are already the focus of reform efforts: dropouts, students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and students who live in poverty. Research shows that between 18 percent and 25 percent of high school dropouts are identified as gifted. The majority of those students are from low-SES families and culturally and linguistically diverse groups.

Providing for the needs of gifted students is an important component of local school efforts. Using multiple measures to identify gifted and talented students and providing various strategies to meet their needs will go a long way toward helping these students excel academically (closing the achievement gap), stay in school (increasing the graduation rate and reducing the dropout rate), and be successful in their lives.

The direction and continuity of local gifted services and supports are heavily influenced by the strength of state policy initiatives and funding. Unfortunately, the state appropriation for the Highly Capable Program currently covers only about 15% of the actual costs to districts to provide this basic education service. We were very disappointed to see that the House budget proposal released today does nothing to remedy this.

In 2010, the Legislature created the Highly Capable Program Technical Working Group. Comprised of national and state experts on gifted education, the HCPTWG recommended the state increase funding to 5% of total student enrollment, and increase the number of hours of highly capable services funded to 6.5 hours per week in a class size of 15 for grades K-6 and 3.1 hours per week in a class size of 15 for grades 7-12. Funding the recommendations of the HCPTWG would be an important step towards ensuring equitable access to the state’s Highly Capable Program. Continuing to stand by an obsolete and inequitable formula and claiming to have met their obligation, as the House budget proposal did today, is not acceptable.

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