Press "Enter" to skip to content

Seven out of Eight Gifted Education Programs Disappear After State Cuts Funding

Patrick Anderson reports that in the twenty years since the South Dakota Legislature stopped mandating and funding gifted education, 87% of local gifted education programs have disappeared:

Pierre is among more than 100 South Dakota school districts that have phased out gifted education programs since 1995, the year state lawmakers eliminated dedicated funding for the programs.

While districts in and around Sioux Falls continue to offer opportunities to advanced learners, communities as large as Aberdeen, Huron and Vermillion have no such programs. In South Dakota, just 21 school districts offer gifted education programs, compared to 160 districts in 1995 [Patrick Anderson, “Gifted Students: State Neglects Its Brightest Learners,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.08.08].

Why would the Legislature and the Governor let such a thing happen?

In South Dakota, state funding for gifted education wound up on the chopping block in 1995, when lawmakers overhauled K-12 funding – and the entire education department — and slashed hundreds of state mandates and rules.

The idea was to give more local control to school districts, and when lawmakers adopted a different K-12 funding formula, a number of separate category-based funding streams were combined into a single per-student allocation, said Tony Venhuizen, Daugaard’s chief of staff [Anderson, 2015.08.08].

As with teacher pay, South Dakota lawmakers hide behind the mantra of “local control” to justify not taking action to support gifted education. But to say, “The state doesn’t have to fund gifted education; local schools can raise and spend all the money they want” is to ignore the practical reality demonstrated by the end of state funding for gifted education in 1995. Take away state support for a K-12 program, and fewer schools will offer that program. In the case of gifted education, the 1995 cuts meant seven out of eight schools lost their programs.

“Local control” is a sham excuse if local districts don’t have resources to control. The South Dakota Legislature and the Governor should stop making excuses and restore funding for gifted education.

p.s.:  Anderson lists the South Dakota school districts that still provide gifted education:

Belle Fourche Beresford Brandon Valley
Brookings Burke Dakota Valley
Douglas Groton Area Harrisburg
Meade Mitchell Platte-Geddes
Rapid City Area Sioux Falls Todd County
Tripp-Delmont Tri-Valley Wagner Community
Watertown West Central Yankton


  1. Troy 2015-08-10 08:40


    I do not have a position on gifted education so don’t interpret my remarks.

    There is a debate among the education community about the efficacy of gifted education with regard to actually having an effect on gifted students. Additionally, there are many educators who believe segregation of gifted students has a negative effect on the student body as a whole. Finally, there are some who believe gifted education encourages “wrong motives” for these students- pursuit of scholarship or admittance to prestigious schools vs. learning for its own sake and stimulating natural curiosity.

    Before we lament the ending of a program (and or its lack of funding), we should understand the merits of the program. Like I said, I am undecided on the program because I see merits on both side. However, one thought I can’t get out of my head- My H.S. librarian (Mrs. Peterson) basically took on the role of “gifted educator.” She maintained a reading list across a variety of disciplines and often initiated students to read about areas of interest at a more advanced level. Plus, the segregation causes me angst. On the other hand, I get the concept of putting people in places where the are pushed up against their limits.

  2. larry kurtz 2015-08-10 08:44

    South Dakota deserves the legislature it has. If the state wanted to protect education it would fire the extremists that go to Pierre just to genuflect to the SDGOP’s tyranny.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-08-10 08:54

    Interesting—does gifted education itself promote the scholarship money/Harvard mindset? Is that any different from other programs and guidance counselors who push the same agenda? That seems a non-unique problem, fixable by making sure gifted program coordinators have their heads screwed on straight, not by cutting gifted education.

    Is the segregation of gifted education any worse than the segregation of the special ed resource room, or of AP classes and the debate team?

    I agree that we should see more information on effectiveness. What do gifted programs achieve? What results do kids get from those programs? Of course, we’ll have to choose our measurements carefully, as well as our definitions: I suspect there are numerous approaches to providing appropriate learning opportunities to highly talented kids.

  4. jerry 2015-08-10 08:55

    Everyone in Pierre knows that you only need to know the color or feel of the lever you pull that feeds the poultry or cows. You only need educate people to know that and to know that they should not soil their pants. To further help in that regard, Pierre will furnish the video so you can learn to then push the colored or feel of the lever to eliminate that waste. Republican government cares!

  5. larry kurtz 2015-08-10 08:59

    Troy, remind us how many Fortune 500 companies operate in South Dakota and how many billionaires live there.

  6. leslie 2015-08-10 10:53

    haha, troy wades in carefully (or tiptoes), but wades in, he does. he is welcome to.

    gifted kids are frightening. i met a bro/sis duo in early 2000s and their capacity blew me way. brilliant! out going, effusive, different from one another, the eldest was very dominating but the younger was competitive.

    my own son, who was id’ed for boys state by some unthanked teacher to my happy surprise after a very difficult divorce concerning substance abuse/disfunction in 98, was late (too late) in his k-12 ed. and may have benefitted from special attention. he was a quiet, popular, internal, sensitive one. he turned to marijuana/mushrooms/alcohol escape route, tragically.

    where was daugaard in 95? venhueizen? why does the gov. continue his line about picking a job that pays rather than a questionable major? does he have the expertise to make this state-wide prioritization? did local control benefit otherwise while cutting $1.1 mill, and where did that money go and does it involve the some $25 mill reserves, now???

  7. Spencer 2015-08-10 10:57

    The state could actually make a barebones program pay for itself. Pay for all dual credit courses for students earning a certain ACT, math, ELA, or D-STEP score. Each general requirements position eliminated by the board of regents would pay for roughly 1,000 semester credit hours of dual credit tuition.

  8. Donald Pay 2015-08-10 13:12

    There have always been attacks on “gifted education” as elitist and a waste of resources. Apparently smart kids don’t deserve to be challenged up to their potential.

    Former PUC Commissioner and Governor’s aid Dusty Johnson was a gifted kid, and his mother was a huge advocate for gifted education. I had a three year old who was showing a lot of promise, so I was interested in how the program worked. Dusty’s mother talked to me about how gifted kids need to be challenged up to their potential, or they end up being disaffected and at-risk for all sorts of bad behavior. Clearly, Dusty turned out all right, but Pierre had a pretty good gifted education program back then. Dusty’s mother helped save the program from state budget cuts for about ten years, albeit with reduced funding every year until 1995. Then we got the new funding formula, and the lack of a “mandate.”

    Even though the program was much reduced in Rapid City by the time my daughter was in high school, if it hadn’t been for TAG coordinator Donna Silver-Miller, we would have had a very disaffected young lady in our house. Donna was able to find ways around the education bureaucracy that allowed my daughter to vastly accelerate her learning. She treated every student as an individual, and made sure they were challenged, while also providing invaluable help in college and career areas.

  9. Troy 2015-08-10 14:15

    Dave, why do you ask me to defend these myths. I don’t ascribe to them.

    My position is open and I’d like to see an objective analysis of what the pros and cons are of the program. An association whose purpose is to promote those programs isn’t objective.

  10. Roger Elgersma 2015-08-10 14:28

    Troy, you start with a statement that you do not have a position on gifted education then everything else you write is totally your opinion on gifted education. You must realize that when you start with a lie the rest of what you say will be seen as questionable. Intelligence is worthwhile only if it is honest.
    South Dakota wants the kids to think you can go anywhere from here. My Dad came from eight grades of one room country school house education and was the only one in clerk typist school in the army that had no high school. His wish for more education produced two of three kids with PhDs. But without enough education when young he only became a farmer who wished he had more opportunities. He did build the first hog confinement in our community which put his kids through college.
    When I was in high school, when my principal found out my test scores he was concerned that I was only getting B’s. I was obedient enough when young that I would give them an excuss if they were concerned to make sure it was not their fault, so I told him that I had to milk to many cows. The excuss was to let the teaches off of the hook. I was actually bored with school so did not know gifted programs existed, maybe they did not then, and since I was bored with their system, I was not interested in their ideas either. Their attitude was to just work harder.
    So you want kids to be able to go anywhere from here but not to excell anywhere. When I gave my opinion at Rice University and mentioned my grandfathers success, but then qualified it with, “well more successful that he had ever imagined’, then they said, ‘then he does not think small town’ meaning that I had not put very low limits on what I thought success was.

  11. Roger Elgersma 2015-08-10 14:39

    Troy, you are right that people running a program will have a tendency to over promote it, but a superintendent who has to make cuts since the money simply is not there will make a cut program look like it was waste so he appears to be a good manager, so it takes a close look to see what the truth may be. Since the points you made were so much on one side it became easy to think that was the direction you were thinking.
    I do also think that the smartest that do not get fully engaged will do better than those who have a hard time and get ignored. But this is South Dakota. If you grew up with grandpa was proud that he survived the last drought, rather than seeing serious success, then you will be satisfied with an underfunded school that is still there rather than being consolidated into a larger efficient system.

  12. Troy 2015-08-10 15:03


    I don’t have an educated opinion on the matter. I’ve never actually seen any objective analysis about it (either side). My comments was to counter an impression of CH’s initial post this was an indisputable positive/effective program.

    My anecdotal information on both sides:

    Pro: Parents who want it for their kids and teachers who find teaching smart kids more rewarding.
    Con: Teachers who think it has a detrimental impact on the student body as a whole, primarily because of the segregation and their view it discourages kids not in the program to excel. The person who told me it changes incentives for those in the program is a child psychologist and school counselor.

    Because the Pro seems to have an interest in the program and the Con don’t, I admit I’m leaning that way except I’m most open to either side since neither point me to objective analysis to support their view.

    Sidenote: Anecdotes aren’t conclusive for me. Just all the information I have.

    Cory, my understanding (correct me if I’m wrong) is gifted education begins in elementary school or middle school. The segregation of students by their Jr. and Sr. years occurs anyway by class selection (advanced mathematics vs. arithmetic or the advanced sciences like Physics and Chemistry).

  13. O 2015-08-10 22:04

    Allow me to attempt to mix two education funding discussions with this question: do the districts that cut gifted education programs use that money to increase their teacher salaries?

  14. grudznick 2015-08-10 22:16

    Mr. O, therein lies the rub. They should be forced to. The legislatures need to stomp this local control where the school boards pad the fat cat administrators salaries with every cut made to the local glue and construction paper funds and force them to give raises to teachers. Let us all hope the BluRT-F comes up with a way to force these school boards to use their local control to increase the salaries, which they control with their tight iron fists.

  15. Donald Pay 2015-08-11 14:50

    Let me provide some education about why local districts should not be blamed.

    The time frame during which the gifted education program was unmandated, if that’s a word, coincides with the period in which there was a massive increase in “technology” (computers and accessory equipment) in schools. The political reality during this period was there was intense pressure from Pierre on local districts to implement vastly increased staffing in these technology areas. During this time frame, districts came under Pierre-directed taxing limitations, while simultaneous being forced to increase staffing in the technology area. There was some additional state dollars supposedly directed to K-12 education. However, most of the increase in state dollars during this time did not go to schools, but to property tax reduction funneled through the new school funding formula. Any excess money was siphoned off into technology, a Pierre-directed priority. Programs for students were cut and staff salary increases were sacrificed to Pierre-directed goals.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-08-11 22:13

    Donald, your observation about Pierre’s push for technology seems to reinforce the argument that Pierre really does control how much money schools spend and how they spend it.

  17. Donald Pay 2015-08-12 07:52

    Yes, Cory. Districts can give the finger to Pierre, but it comes at a price. And I’m not saying that we didn’t need to put technology in schools, but it was done very poorly at first. Gateway and other hardware companies dumped all their shit equipment on schools. Businesses donated outdated equipment, getting a tax write off for crap, while not being taxed by the state to actually put good equipment in. The first few years of this nonsense was just so Janklow could pat himself on the back about how many computers were hooked up. It took far more staff and money to figure out how to make this donated shit run. And then districts had to replace it pretty quickly. At first the state required these expenses come out of operating budgets, not capital outlay. Huge, huge hit on budgets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.