Wisconsin ESA Bill to Help Low-income Gifted Students

To start off the New Year, Wisconsin legislators have introduced an education saving account (ESA) bill for gifted and talented, low-income families in an effort to aid gifted students who are less likely to receive recognition and support. Two-thousand low-income students will have access to an ESA, with a limit of $1,000 that can be used for additional education services. While I fill my piggy bank up with money for candy and Legos, these families will be able to fill their account with tax-exempt funding for AP testing and college courses.

There are an estimated three million K-12 students in the U.S. who are considered gifted. While we have a federal savings fund for students with learning disabilities, we lack a savings option for our gifted students. I think it’s time we acknowledge that there are students whose promise is being overlooked and potential underutilized and give them the opportunity to reach their best–Wisconsin’s proposal may prove to be a critical step in doing so.

In a recent op-ed published in the Washington Examiner titled Is school choice 2.0 coming?, the authors clearly define how our education system undermines gifted students’ education:

“Mass education presents a difficult balance for teachers, in that students of varying ability levels are in a single classroom. Teachers must pace lesson plans to accommodate the bulk of students in the classroom while gifted students’ growth is stunted as they cannot move at a faster pace.”

To prevent a young student from pursuing the full development and utilization of their mind is to patronize and handicap their potential. There are few resources for gifted students, who are also often overlooked–especially if they are low-income or a minority. These students need an option to help them develop their gifted ability and remain challenged (and hence engaged) in school. An ESA for gifted students is certainly a step in the right direction for an education system that meets the needs of each individual student, rather than refusing to acknowledge their unique abilities.