Monday, March 23, 2009

$$$ and Education

Newsweek ran an interesting My Turn essay a few weeks ago. The March 9, 2009 edition featured an essay entitled, "Autism and Education," which was written by a mother of two.

One of her children -- her son -- is autistic. Her daughter is not, and yet has special needs of her own. The daughter is gifted.

Yet due to differences in federal laws and funding, her son receives a multitude of services that her daughter does not.

Obviously, each of her children have different needs. Her daughter does not need an aide to navigate the social scene and curriculum of a mainstream classroom. But as the author points out, her daughter could benefit from some specialized assistance as well -- maybe even more so than her son.

It's a controversial point: Should we spend more money on the gifted and talented, even if that means cutting back services for the less able?

The truth is, there's not enough money to go around, so choices will have to be made. Currently, the differences are stark: $24.5 billion allotted to No Child Left Behind, to encourage all children, including the disabled, to meet minimum standards. $7.5 billion available in federal grants to fund gifted and talented education.

With limited money and resources, perhaps more of our money should go to those with the most potential, those with the innate ability to make connections the rest of us may never even see.

It's an intriguing essay and an intriguing proposition. Take a look and tell me what you think.


  1. Wow! I definitely agree that more money needs to be spent on gifted education. I have one kid who is ahead two grade levels and the other one has quite a high IQ. I was fortunate enough to pull my kids out of their very boring public school and homeschool. At their school, so many kids were below grade level and receiving tutoring. When my daughter's teacher had a tutor work with her to challenge her, the principal said she didn't need it, she was way ahead of the entire class! She was also bored out of her mind!!!! I started reading about gifted kids and found a great book called "Genius Denied" by Jan and Bob Davidson, the founders of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development. Their institute provides financial and other assistance to gifted children. I don't think cuts should be made to services for the less able. There are defintitely things we could spend less on, though. Shouldn't all forms of education be near the top in government spending? It seems so logical to me!

  2. as one who services the less able, i don't feel that cutting funding there is an option. the reason more money is set aside for the lower functioning is because the funding is to give those students equal opportunities in the school setting. high need children often need one on one assistance, OT, PT, nursing services, speech, deaf/hard of hearing specialists, or vision teachers. these people are put in place to give the students an education that is appropriate. cutting funding isn't an option...however, i do feel there needs to be a better use for that funding (like spending the money schools get for those students actually ON those students instead of allocating it for something different)! but that is a different argument for a different day! on to the gifted and talented!

    growing up i was part of our district's gifted and talented program. it wasn't anything special...we worked at least a grade level above our peers, and still weren't challenged enough. in 7th grade i was working on high school level math (which is really funny because i suck at math, but i was gifted in reading, so i must have been gifted in everything! needless to say i failed math that year!). we were teased, called names, and bullied in school because we liked to learn. how dare we? in high school i was in honors classes, which did the same work as the rest of my peers...but we moved faster so i had twice the work that year. twice the work at the same level as everyone else isn't challenging. in fact, i felt i was being punished for being smart. so i know how the other end of the spectrum feels too!

    i don't think i have any kind of answers here, but i do feel that funding for special needs children should include that of the gifted and talented. they need to be challenged just as much as anyone else does. and we do give all this money to higher need children to give them equal access to education...why are the gifted any different? i think that a lot in the traditional education needs to change, and i think it needs to start with funding. and i don't feel that bureaucrats in public offices need to tell schools where the money should go. heck...i don't even think that district offices need to have much say in that either! i think that there needs to be a committee of teachers and parents who are in the trenches, who knows where the need lies, who will give much more accordingly to each area than those who are more concerned with test scores and how it makes administrators look than how children are actually functioning in such a dysfunctional institution (holy long sentence! sorry about that!).

  3. "...there's not enough money to go around..."

    I would like to (respectfully :) disagree with this little statement. I believe that there *is* enough money, it's just spent on too many of the wrong things. If there was more of an even competition in education, I think we'd see a dramatic shift in the quality of education. In Belgium, the money for each student follows them to whichever school they *choose* to attend - whether it be public or private. There's no requirement to attend the school in your "boundary line". This has created fierce competition for schools to provide the best services, innovative classes, and cutting edge technology in order to woo students. Can you imagine if they did that here? ;D