Revised budget proposal would restore gifted education funding

2010-08-12T20:21:00Z 2010-08-19T16:59:19Z Revised budget proposal would restore gifted education fundingBy MARGARET REIST / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

State funding for gifted education may be off the chopping block, at least most of it.

The Nebraska Department of Education has revised its proposed budget cuts, restoring all but $217,567 of a $2.17 million appropriation to districts for high-ability learners.

It also restored $119,000 in the budget to administer the gifted program.

The department came up with the proposed cuts at the direction of legislators and the governor, who asked all state departments to suggest how to cut 10 percent from their budgets.

For the education department, that meant coming up with proposals to shave about $1.7 million from its base budget and $101 million from state aid to education.

The board will vote on the proposals at its September meeting. Eventually, the department's budget will be set by the Legislature and the governor as part of the state budget.

Wanda Stelk, president of the Nebraska Association for the Gifted, was among more than two dozen educators on hand at the board's meeting Wednesday to argue against gutting funding for gifted education.

She said she was pleased with the changes because at least the proposed 10 percent cut to state aid for gifted education is in line with other suggested cuts, although money for gifted education always has been low.

"Gifted education is so disproportionately funded compared to special education and English Language Learners," she said. "At the same time, it's a fair cut. ... They didn't just pick one area and say we're not important."

The money is spent primarily to train teachers either at their districts or workshops, to hire gifted facilitators and to provide opportunities such as quiz bowls and other events for high-ability learners.

In the revised proposal, in addition to restoring most of the money for gifted education, the department put back some money for a textbook loan program. The program helps buy books for parochial school students. The original proposal cut all $465,500. The new one would cut 10 percent, or $46,500.

To make up for those changes, the proposal calls for cutting two additional positions at the education department. It also proposed cutting more money distributed through the state aid formula. Originally, it proposed reducing it by $96 million. The revised proposal would reduce it by $98.7 million.

Other proposed cuts include money to vocational rehabilitation and the student leader center program.

Reach Margaret Reist at 403-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

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