A series of proposed bills (HF 1994, SF 1700, SF 2523, SF 2530, and SF 2408) seek to increase and mandate funding for gifted programming by tying in with efforts to address the achievement gap in Minnesota schools.
The proposed package of legislation seeks to incentivize Minnesota districts to implement programs for gifted learners by tripling funding. It also mandates school districts apply that money exclusively towards the expansion of gifted programs.
Ignite Instruction: Ignite Learning! (IIIL), an organization promoting the bills is meeting with Minnesota legislators to gain their support. The IIIL board is composed of former gifted coordinators, business owners, school board members, and students. The initiative to forward the legislation is led by IIIL co-chairs, Bill Keilty, Ed. D., and Terry Friedrichs, Ed. D. and Ph. D.
The legislation argues that critical and creative thinking skills integrated into the tenets IIIL advocates will benefit the entire student population and better serve them as they adapt to the changing workplace environment of the future. According to Keilty, the proposed legislation push will add engagement for students and provide the long-term benefit of a more adaptable and productive workforce.
The bills targeted student populations include, but are not limited to, gifted students. It also aims to mandate how districts use the funding based on the bills’ provisions. The IIIL website also suggests that the Minnesota Department of Education enforce district collection of long term data via the K-12 Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) to track growth and as evidence of a successful, or unsuccessful, implementation of programming.
Senator Cwodzinski: Bills feasibility tied to fiscal practicalities and timelines
Sen. Steve Cwodzinski, DFL-Eden Prairie noted he taught the first enriched class at Eden Prairie high “about 35 or 36 years ago” which later became gifted and talented at EPHS. Cwodzinski also taught gifted children at Eden Prairie high school for around 25 years, said he supports closing the achievement gap and improving student engagement. He said legislative efforts in education are heavily focused on closing the achievement gap “Certainly, Covid-19 has exacerbated that gap.” Moreover, concerning gifted learners he considers it “likely that these kids are struggling in school because they are lacking challenge.”
However, he also voiced reservations about the fiscal practicality of the bills. It’s more feasible to “use those resources for everyone or for those with the highest need, because funding is so finite.”
Says Cwodzinski, “because we’re currently in the process of putting out the finalized educational legislation, anything not on those bills right now–such as IIIL’s legislation–won’t have a great impact on the foreseeable future.”
In fact, a series of current education bills nearing completion do the opposite of what IIIL advocates, noted Cwodzinski. These bills favor “money, not mandates,” and are set to “allow school districts to decide how the money will be spent.”
Effort on bills to renew in Fall 2021
On hiatus until the fall, IIIL will return to the House and Senate to seek support. For the time being Keilty says he is broadening his network of support and looking forward to the session ahead. He acknowledges that convincing Senators to support the legislation will require persistence.
He intends to seek funding for the IIIL legislation from the post-pandemic surplus. “Tax revenue has grown… there’s now a 2.8 billion surplus we can compete for.”
(Editor’s Note and Update: This article has been corrected to reflect Sen. Cwodzinski’s statement involving his role in teaching the first enriched class at Eden Prairie high school, not founding the EPHS gifted program.
As part of EPLN’s mission to promote critical thinking and ethical journalism EPLN provides internships to a select number of secondary and university students. The author Grace Ersfeld-O’Brien is an EPLN intern.)