State Variation in Gifted Education Funding and Services

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While the definition of giftedness varies from state to state, federal legislation is quite clear about the definition of a gifted student. According to the No Child Left Behind Act, “gifted and talented” refers to students “who give evidence of high achievement capabilities in such areas as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities.”1

However, there are no federal mandates that provide funding and services for gifted education to states. Because of this lack of federal standards and the resulting variation in gifted education programming among the states, many states have large discrepancies in terms of available funds and types of services offered to gifted students.

  • The District of Columbia, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, South Dakota and Vermont have no state mandates related to funding or programming for gifted education.2
  • More than 100 school districts in South Dakota have eliminated gifted education programs since the state decided to eliminate funding in 1995. Currently, only 21 school districts in the state have some type of gifted education program in place, compared to 160 in 1995.3
  • Under the old model in South Dakota, the state would match local funding amounts, but in an effort to allow for more localized control of education, lawmakers decided to do away with the state match provision.4
  • Gifted students and education advocates are worried that these reductions in funding will “limit the potential of the state’s brightest learners and leave some of them on a path to boredom and frustration.”5 Since the federal government has no clear mandate for gifted education, students may encounter a wide variety of available services not only from state to state but also within individual school districts in the same state.
  • The Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Children and Youth Education Act was passed by Congress in 1988 with the purpose of “advancing knowledge and services through funding research, model programs and leadership training.”6 
  • Despite the passage of the Javits Act, the federal government has no statutory definition of giftedness that must be adopted by states or local education agencies or specific requirements for services.7 
  • The only federal funding specifically allocated for gifted education programs comes from the Javits Act, but appropriations have been inconsistent from year to year. From 2000 to 2015, funding generally has ranged from $5 million to $11 million annually, mostly in the form of multiple grants and a small percentage (not to exceed 30 percent) devoted solely to research. No funding was provided from 2011 to 2013.8
  • Even with these funding variations, allocations for gifted education are very small when compared to other federal education programs. In 2007, for every $100 spent on education, gifted children received $.03 while Reading First received $3, students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act received $31 and No Child Left Behind received $57.9

Five categories of gifted education programming and funding policies currently exist nationwide.

  • Four states have mandated programming and are fully funded by the state.10
  • Twenty-three states have mandated programming and are partially funded by the state.11
  • Eight states have mandated programming but no available state funding.12
  • Six states have no mandated programming but available state funding.13
  • Nine states and the District of Columbia have no mandated programming or available state funding.14
  • For those states without a funding mandate or partial funding, local school districts must raise revenues, which is accomplished primarily through taxation.
  • Of the states with funding, Georgia ranks the highest in total annual spending with $367,057,950 in the 2012–13 school year, nearly $200 million more than the next closest state.15

States with the most “supportive” gifted education policies (available funding and wide variety of  programming) are largely confined to the southeast region, specifically Florida.

  • FloridaLearns STEM Scholars is one such program that has been recently designed to improve STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education for gifted and talented secondary education students residing in the state’s largely rural panhandle area.16
  • The Panhandle Area Educational Consortium, or PAEC, partnered with both the Heartland Educational Consortium and the North East Florida Educational Consortium to make more rigorous STEM courses available for students. Additional services include STEM Summer Challenges led by local university instructors, real-world STEM problem-solving and offering college and career guidance by qualified counselors.17
  • The PAEC and their partners believe that the nearly 1,000 participating students throughout the state will engage in worthwhile collaboration with local business, postsecondary, military and educational professionals.18

1 No Child Left Behind Act, P.L. 107-110 (Title IX, Part A, Definition 22) (2002); 20 USC 7801(22) (2004) 
2Davidson Institute for Talent Development. “Gifted Education Policies.” 2015.
3 Patrick Anderson. “Gifted Students: State Neglects its Brightest Learners.” Argus Leader, Aug. 8, 2015..
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 Carolyn M. Callahan, et al. “National Survey of Gifted Programs: Executive Summary.” NationalResearch Center on the Gifted and Talented at the Curry School of Education, University of Virginia. 2014. 
7 Ibid.
8 U.S. Department of Education. “Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program: Funding Status.” 2015.
9 Callahan. “National Survey …”
10 Davidson Institute, 2015.
11 Ibid.
12 Ibid.
13 Ibid.
14 Ibid.
15 National Association of Gifted Children. “Table C: State Mandates and Funding Levels.”.
16 Florida Department of Education. “Gifted Education.”2015.
17 Ibid.
18 Ibid

CR Gifted Education Funding