Illinois Association for Gifted Children
How do I advocate with my local school board for gifted funding and services?
Blog post by Pamela Shaw, IAGC President-Elect
To understand how to effectively advocate with your local school district’s board of education, it is important to understand the powers and limitations of the school board as a governing body. First and foremost, the board of education operates at the policy and governance level. Generally speaking, that means that the board is responsible for what districts will prioritize on a broad level, while the superintendent is responsible for determining how to implement policies and priorities set by the board. The board of education hires and oversees one employee only: the superintendent.
This means that the board of education is not the place to go with concerns about individual students, staff members, or specific issues that arise at the building or classroom level. For those issues, it is important to follow the chain of command that is typical for most districts. The board of education not only does not get involved with school-specific problems, but if they are approached about these concerns, they are expected to refer you back to the teacher, principal, or upper-level administrator, as appropriate. Also keep in mind that board members have no individual authority; their only authority is as a group of seven voting at a public meeting. In addition, the Open Meetings Act means that board members cannot discuss as a group or decide on issues outside of this public forum.
However, the school board IS where you can advocate broadly for the needs of gifted and advanced learners in your district. You can suggest policies, programs, and services that you would like to see, either in emails to your board or by publicly commenting at a board meeting. While you as an individual advocate can bring these issues to the attention of the board, your voice will be even more effective when amplified by those of others with similar perspectives. You can certainly share stories about your individual child, as that can put a human face on what may come across as a theoretical issue, but be sure to advocate for all children with similar needs in your district, not just your own.
There are two specific areas that boards deal with that have a direct impact on programs and services for high-potential learners: policies and funding. To guide their policies, most districts in Illinois follow the Policy Reference Manual published by the Illinois Association of School Boards. Most districts publish their policy manual online, but if not, it can be viewed at the district office.
There are two policies you should look for in your district’s board policy manual in Section 6 - Instruction:
6:130 Program for the Gifted - While not required by law, this policy is the basis for the district’s programs or services for gifted students. If it is not present, you can ask that it be included. This policy aligns with Section 14-A of the Illinois School Code.
6:135 Accelerated Placement Program - This policy is required by state law, as is most of the content of the policy. If you are hearing that your district does not accelerate students, this is the policy to reference. This policy is aligned with the Accelerated Placement Act.
Finally, while there is no dedicated grant funding for gifted services in Illinois, several provisions in the laws that govern education allow funds to be used by schools for that purpose. The Evidence-Based Funding for Student Success Act, which determines the majority of the state education funding that districts receive, allows for “Gifted investments” and specifically notes that professional development funds may be used to train teachers in instructional strategies for gifted learners. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act includes provisions for gifted and talented students, including in the use of Title I funds for student programs and Title II funds for professional development. Because the board of education approves the annual budget, it is appropriate to ask how much is currently being spent on gifted services and request that monies from these resources be utilized to help meet the needs of high-potential learners in your district.
Because the board of education operates at a broad policy level, they may not know much about what is being done for gifted and advanced students in your local district. Your advocacy can highlight this group of students and draw the board’s attention towards actions they can take to ensure that the needs of all students, including those with advanced learning needs, are being met equitably in your local schools. IAGC has many resources to help! See our website for the IAGC Model Acceleration Policy, Parent Resources, Educator Resources, and Advocacy Information. The National Association for Gifted Children also has a free ebook available for download, Starting & Sustaining a Parent Group to Support Gifted Children.
Illinois Association for Gifted Children
1500 Sullivan Road
Aurora, IL 60506
Ph: 630-907-5047Fax: 630-907-5976
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