In an update to my April 10th post: “Parents Of Gifted Asked to Testify To Ohio Senate Education Committee today I participated in a leadership briefing conference call on the House Version of the Governor’s Education Reform Plan. The call included John Stanford of the Governor’s Office, Representative Denise Driehaus (who was in a Finance Committee meeting and only popped on for a few moments), Superintendent of the Ohio Dept of Education Deborah Delisle (who only spoke for a few minutes and I think her speaker phone was a bit wobbly because I really couldn’t hear her very well) and Representative Connie Pillich, who seemed to do most of the talking and question answering. In sum – the Governor’s education reform bill had a deep flaw in the language surrounding gifted education – effectively cutting funding in half and eliminating important programs like the Summer Honors Institute. After many statewide meetings and lobbying efforts (yes, simple email and letter writing campaigns from constituents!) the Ohio Senate called for gifted testimony even before the House had an opportunity to make any changes. In the interim, the Ohio House was putting finishing touches on the House Substitute Bill 1 (see link here).
The news is all good. The House voted to restore gifted education funding to its previous levels and added the following:
Funding for identification
Funding for Gifted Coordinators
Gifted Intervention Specialists in every building
Gifted professional development for gifted intervention specialists
Additionally, according to OAGC (Ohio Association for Gifted Children) (see complete explanation here):
Funding is dedicated to gifted services under the gifted operating standards.
Districts currently receiving gifted funding may spend no less than the amount they are currently receiving through unit funding.
Summer Honors Institutes are funded at current levels (hooray – they had been eliminated in the previous language).
And, the impact of the proposed 20 additional days to high ability students who do not need or would not benefit from the extra “seat time” in the classroom will be studied.
There’s more – but it’s a hefty document – to stay on top of alerts as Ann Sheldon of OAGC sifts through the language, you can sign up for an advocacy alert email on the OAGC website.
The brilliant moment in all of this was hearing Representative Connie Pillich speak to the sheer number of letters and email messages they received from one particular constituency – gifted education advocates. She singled out a letter from a special education advocate which pleaded for gifted education funding on behalf of Ohio’s future. It’s not the first or last time the folks representing the needs of special education students have spoken up for gifted education (see the Council for Exceptional Children). We are kindred spirits existing in the one-size-fits-all world of public education.
The format of the conference call was great and more than one participant voiced hope that there would be an encore in a few weeks. Of course, the Senate has to make their changes to the language as well but we can hope that the testimony given to the Senate Education Committee two weeks ago was compelling enough to keep the gifted education funding levels intact in the final version.
To our House supporters I give my heartfelt thanks. To all you letter writers, gifted advocates, parents, teachers, administrators and kids in Ohio, I say: You Rock!