What Obligation Does a State Have to Gifted Students?
In California a judge ruled that the state does not have to pay the college tuition of a gifted 13-year old student, says Education Week ($) in an article from the December 6th edition:
California is not required to pay for the tuition of an extremely gifted 13-year-old student who is enrolled in college, a state appeals court has ruled.
A three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal, in Sacramento, unanimously dismissed an appeal by Leila J. Levi, the mother of Levy M. Clancy, who is now 16.
According to court papers, the boy began taking college courses at age 7, passed the state’s high school exit exam at 9, and started attending the University of California, Los Angeles, at 13.
Ms. Levi sued the state department of education in 2004, seeking to force it to pay for her son’s college tuition. She argued in her suit that he was entitled to a state-funded college education because the state’s compulsory-education law required him to attend school until age 16, but her son “cannot attend a traditional K-12 school because the schools operated by [the California Department of Education] and Clancy’s local district are ill-equipped and unsuitable for highly gifted children and will actually cause more harm to him than if he simply did not attend.”
She contended that the schools could not meet “his specific psychosocial and academic needs,” and that he had already completed a standard K-12 education.
In a Nov. 7 ruling, the appeals court held that the education department was not required under the state constitution or state statutes, or as a matter of public policy, to pay the costs of Mr. Clancy’s college education. The California Constitution’s guarantee of free schooling only encompasses grades K-12 and does not include the state’s colleges and universities, Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye wrote for the court.
The court also ruled that neither the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act nor other public-policy considerations could force the state to provide a college education. Extreme giftedness is not listed among the disabilities encompassed by the IDEA, so the child was neither covered by the law nor has “exceptional needs” as defined by the state’s education laws.
Nor could the judge find any provision of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, or California’s plan to implement that federal law, “that requires K-12 public education to meet every student’s particularized educational needs.”
Justice Cantil-Sakauye noted that the court was not addressing whether the state should attempt to meet the academic needs of every student in the K-12 system.
“We are aware there is significant debate in the field of education regarding the educational needs of gifted and highly gifted children,” but those matters are properly addressed by the legislature or the electorate, the judge said.
A couple of thoughts:
- An article I read a couple of months ago brought up the idea of an IEP for every student, and this is a direction that I would love to see us go towards for those extremely gifted kids. If we’re going to acknowledge exceptionality on one end of the spectrum with specially designed instruction, why not the other end as well?
- If you could IEP a gifted student, their least restrictive environment (LRE) may well be the local college campus, as for the boy above. That would be a sea change that could make a big difference for kids around the country.
- On the brighter side, the judge did encourage the California legislature to develop a remedy for situations like this, which goes against the usual stereotype of the activist judge forcing schools to spend more money.
In the Picus and Odden report that Washington Learns ignored there’s a great section on what the state does to support gifted education. The funding mechanism is rather eye-opening:
Current code (RCW 28A.185) governs school districts' provision of appropriate programs for gifted and talented, or "highly capable" students. For each district with a gifted student program, the state provides $353 per student for 2 percent of total district enrollment, which equals about $7.06 for all students. The statuatory goal is to provide funding to 3 percent of total enrollment.
In a district my size, that works out to about $15,000.