Op-Ed: Low-Income And Minority Students Need Access To Gifted Programs

Kimberly LightfordThursday, May 12, 2016 || By Sen. Kimberly Lightford || OPINION

Time and again, we have seen the critical impact a quality education can have on a young person. However, the hard truth is that not every child in Illinois is given the same opportunity to succeed. When it comes to accessing advanced academic programs, too often, low-income and minority students are being left behind.

Often, it’s because their schools are struggling to pay for even basic programming or have failed to update their gifted identification processes to reflect current best-practices.

I have been honored to serve the 4th District of Illinois for 18 years. I take pride that many of the school districts I represent provide gifted programming for academically-advanced students, but I am concerned that disparities still exist in the enrollment of low-income and minority students in these programs.

In fact, a recent report by education advocacy organization One Chance Illinois showed that among the state’s largest districts, Hispanic, black, and low-income students have an 18 percentage point, 7 percentage point, and 25 percentage point difference, respectively, between their enrollment in gifted programs and their schools’ student population.

It’s clear more work needs to be done.

That’s why I’m proud to be the chief sponsor of a bill moving through the legislature that would change the district gifted identification and assessment requirements for school districts to qualify for state gifted funding. If passed, the Untapped Potential Act will be a critical step forward in our quest to provide a quality education for all children in Illinois, especially gifted students from low-income and minority families.

From the earliest days in my legislative career, education has been a cause that I am extremely proud to stand behind. I’ve supported a number of initiatives that have helped students of all backgrounds.

That’s why, today, I am providing my voice to help low-income and minority gifted students get access to the educational experiences they need and deserve. By being in classrooms that are a better academic fit, they are more likely to be their true academic selves and blossom into the adults that will be the visionaries of tomorrow. VFP

Sen. Kimberly Lightford represents the state’s 4th District in the Illinois General Assembly. 

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