Local Residents Testify Before Texas State Representatives
Local Residents Testify Before Texas State Representatives By Karen Chaney “On Mar. 5, 2019, House Bill 3 was filed by the House Public Education Committee. The G/T allotment is repealed in House Bill 3, Article 3.” (txgifted.org) On Mar. 10, Fairview resident Lisa Wilkins read a post on Sloan Creek Intermediate School 5th grade GT ELAR teacher Erin McClintick’s Facebook page which was titled, “Gifted Education Receives the Death Sentence in Texas - Why would the Texas Legislature knowingly choose to defund the education of the brightest children?” Within that article were ways to advocate to keep (and increase) the G/T allotment. Options varied from a quick call to your legislators to going to Austin to take part in the public testimony that would occur on Tues., Mar. 12, in Austin. Lisa, spurred by the sense of urgency, opted for the latter. She, along with her two children and two of their friends, rallied quickly and headed to Austin. While en route, Lisa’s daughter Caroline Wilkins and friend, Effe Sutton (both 5th graders at Sloan Creek) wrote their testimonies. Once arriving at the hotel, Lisa’s son, James Wilkins and his friend David David, III wrote their testimonies.
They were met with many obstacles, such as unexpected traffic, full hotels due to the South by Southwest Music Festival, thick fog and a hard to navigate floor plan of the state capital building. However, they pressed on. Upon arriving where they would testify, they were directed to the overflow room, where they waited for 4.5 hours to testify. They weren’t allowed to leave the overflow room because they needed to wait to hear when their names were called. They took turns leaving the room for meals.
While there, they were able to meet with Texas Representative (Lucas resident) Candy Noble who showed them around the capital a bit. They met members of TAGT (Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented).
Lisa and her two children were the first to testify after the 4.5 hour wait. Lisa said she thanked the representatives for the opportunity and for making public education a priority. She said, “I’m not a school fund expert. I’m a concerned mother of two G/T students.” She knew one of the representatives was from El Paso, which is where Lisa grew up, so she made a special point to make that connection as she stated the fact that she was a member of the first El Paso G/T program. She talked about how her children are thriving at Lovejoy ISD because they have a comprehensive G/T program, but that wasn’t always the case when they were in a different school district. She said while listening to the 4.5 hours of testimony, she heard numerous people tell of similar experiences that her family had experienced. She told of when her son James was attending school in a different school district he went from loving school to not wanting to go. She pointed out that LISD will continue to make the G/T program a priority (about 21% of the LISD student population are in G/T, whereas the average G/T attendance in other school districts is 5 – 7%). She said she was concerned for other school districts based on the G/T allotment decision that is about to be made.
Caroline’s testimony included, “Lovejoy ISD has a very large G/T program. This created a whole new series of possibilities in my life.” “In Lovejoy’s G/T program, there are separate classes and teachers, and this makes a big difference because I really have the freedom to zoom ahead or go very far in depth.” James’ testimony included his declining interest in his previous school. In conclusion he said, “Therefore, you should continually fund the G/T program specifically because it will continue to positively impact the learning of the academically advanced.”
After an additional time of waiting, Effe and David were called to testify. Effe said, “G/T students can shape the future of the state, country or even the world...” “Not all families can afford extra academic services outside of school. The G/T program provides a suitable academic environment for students no matter their background.” James included a plea, “Please do not decrease designated funding for G/T. Please keep kids learning.”
McClintick was unable to testify in Austin, but she provided this insight, “The extent to which HB3 could affect gifted learners is still somewhat hard to determine, however the funds set aside specifically for use in G/T programs would no longer be specified as such. So, districts would be given the job of deciding where those funds would be focused. Depending on a district’s perceived highest needs, students in gifted programs could have less funds to give them the experiences they truly need in order to thrive.” She adds, “My greatest concern is for what may happen in districts that do not have strong, organized coordinators, parent organizations, as well as highly qualified staff supporting gifted learners the way Lovejoy ISD does. In districts where pull-out programs are the norms, or gifted learners have one class a day with a teacher who is truly held to gifted education and curriculum, it could be so easy for gifted learners to fall through the cracks because of funding changes. That would have devastating cognitive and emotional educational impacts on this population of students.”
Lisa, James, Caroline, David and Effe each feel that their testimonies made a difference. They request that you call Texas House Representative Candy Noble (512) 463 - 0186 and Texas Senator Angela Paxton at (512) 463 - 0108 and say, “In reference to House Bill 3, we want to keep and increase the G/T allotment.”
For more information, go to txgifted.org.