By MARYANN DREAS
MT. VERNON — District 80 will continue and expand its successful Talented and Gifted program next year despite unsure funding, said members of the District 80 Board of Education at a meeting last week.
“Next year we’re going to make it even stronger ... so every kid gets pushed to their maximum,” District 80 Assistant Superintendent Tyler Brown said during Wednesday’s meeting.
This could prove difficult with Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s budget, which allows for only a small increase in education funding by 2.3 percent, far less than the 4.8 percent increase in last year’s education allowances. While many school districts in Southern Illinois have had to cut their talented and gifted school programs due to funding problems, District 80 has been able to keep the TAG program up and running through general corporate funds.
“The Illinois state board of education restored some of the funds but those funds are already zeroed out in the budget,” Brown said. “We’re able to keep the program without the money.”
Talented and gifted programs are often overlooked in budget allocating, as reflected in the dramatic drop from $19 million to zero for gifted program funding in 2002 in Illinois.
The TAG program focuses on children in Mt. Vernon city schools that excel and qualify for special education through a federal evaluation. According to information revealed at the meeting, 128 students in District 80 were served in the program in the 2008-09 academic year, four more than in 2007-08. Twenty-two students were from the Primary Center, 36 were from the J. L. Buford Intermediate School and 71 were from Zadok Casey Middle School. Eighteen percent of students were of a non-Caucasion background, and 69 were females and 59 were males. Twenty-seven percent of kindergarten through fifth grade students and 45 percent of middle school students in the TAG program were economically disadvantaged.
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