Education makes up a large share of any state budget, and with states facing falling tax revenue, it's inevitable that education budgets will take a hit. In Illinois, for instance, state education officials had to recently figure out a way to cut $146 million from funding levels from the year before. I'm sure no one will be surprised to hear that, according to this article from the Chicago Sun-Times, gifted education was simply zeroed out. In tough times, gifted education is treated as an optional perk. And unfortunately, many gifted programs leave themselves open to this criticism by focusing more on fun field trips to science museums or short pull-out enrichment programs than accelerated academic work.
It's really too bad that gifted education is going to wind up bearing a disproportionate amount of state budget cuts over the next few years. But here's what I hope will happen. Advocates for gifted kids -- mostly parents -- will use the absence of funds to truly press the case for acceleration, a.k.a. "skipping grades."
Acceleration costs nothing beyond the usual per-pupil funds. In the long run, it saves states and districts money, since it costs less to pay for 10 or 11 years of compulsory schooling vs. 13.
The evidence in favor of acceleration is very strong, and yet there is incredible academic resistance to it. I have yet to figure out why this is -- I'm curious what reasons parents who read this blog have heard. Anyone who's observed children between the ages of, oh, 8 and 16, knows they develop at different rates anyway. The whole notion of grades, per se, is relatively modern. In the 1-room schoolhouses of yore, it was not a distinction with much weight.
I don't want to let parents entirely off the hook here, either. If parents of gifted kids were completely unified in pushing for more widespread use of acceleration, I think school districts would find it harder to say no. But, just like teachers, some parents worry about social issues, sports, and perhaps some worry about just how hard a gifted 8-year-old might have to work to stay on top of the 6th grade curriculum, vs. always getting A's... and getting to go on science museum field trips with the gifted program.
But if the latter is no longer an option, maybe there will be a bit more of a unified front with acceleration. It is worth lobbying for as a broader solution than it is, currently. That would certainly be a silver lining in all this.