Rochester SAGE asked Tom McMillin and Joanna VanRaaphorst, candidates for State Representative in Michigan's District 45 questions regarding gifted education. Here are the responses from Republican Tom McMillin.
1) Currently most gifted students in Michigan’s public schools are not being taught at their academic level. As a legislator, what bills would you support to increase gifted education?
- Legislation that would give more flexibility for schools, teachers and parents to design individualized learning plans for each student. This year, we in the House approved one way to help with this - by making seat-time waivers easier for schools to obtain, but the Senate has not acted on it, yet.
- Legislation that would give more options for parents who aren't happy with the education their children receive.
- Legislation that would put teeth in current merit pay laws (signed into law by then-Gov. Granholm) to ensure high-quality teachers (including those able to teach gifted students well) are rewarded.
2) Gifted students make up about 5-7% of the population. Should taking a class in teaching gifted students be part of becoming a Highly Qualified Teacher? Why or why not?
- Seems reasonable. But again, I think the technology and demand is there to push much greater individualized learning for each child, gifted, challenged or wherever a student is for each subject.
- Ensuring merit pay laws are followed would also help ensure high quality teachers are rewarded would help, too.
3) Schools often claim lack of funding is the primary reason they can’t provide gifted education. Should the state allocate funds for gifted education? Why or why not?
- Focus should be on growth of students - wherever the students are in their academic achievement. Those districts that do a better job growing all students academically, including gifted students, should be rewarded financially. The focus shouldn't be just on lower performing students, but all children.
4) Should the state mandate identification or services for gifted and talented education in public schools? Why or why not?
- I would prefer a "carrot" instead of a "stick" and reward districts that do a good job meeting the needs of and academically growing all students, including gifted students.
- Also, with more choice and options for parents who aren't happy with the education their children receive, all public schools will have to be more aggressive at meeting the needs of all students, including gifted and talented students. I will work to break down barriers to flexibility for schools to satisfy the needs of all students. One example of doing this was when we recently expanded dual enrollment for high school students who want to take college-level courses.
5) Many parents of gifted children believe gifted charter schools are the best option for properly educating gifted learners. Would you support gifted charter schools? Why or why not?
- Currently, charter schools must, like all other public schools, take all who want to attend, as long as there are seats available...changing that to allow charters to take certain gifted students and reject other applicants would be quite a change in policy and would need to be thoroughly vetted for fairness and unintended consequences. It seems if school districts wanted to open a charter school of their own to focus on gifted students, that might be a direction to move toward, initially.
You can read more about Tom McMillin and his positions on issues that affect our community at www.taxpayersfortom.com.
Please join us at Rochester SAGE. Together we can make a difference for gifted children!