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You might remember a recent San Francisco Chronicle article I linked to in the morning newsblitz, noting that gifted education in the Bay Area took a hit as budgets dropped and schools diverted funds to other programs.

I was curious whether the same thing has happened here. A parent who tipped me off about the Poway Unified School District was right. Poway schools shifted most of their funding for gifted and talented programs to cover other programs this year, taking advantage of new financial flexibility.

The roughly 33,000-student district has eliminated extra training for teachers to meet gifted kids’ needs and money for special supplies, diverting funding to keep basic programs intact. The only elements of the program that it still funds are testing children to decide if they’re gifted and a coordinator for gifted education at each school site.

Curriculum director Noreen Walton said Poway is now spending about $70,000 on gifted education, compared to about $250,000 in the previous school year. It now tests children to decide whether they’re gifted only once a year, instead of two or three times. It also cut a teacher who helped coordinate the program and educate parents and teachers about gifted education.

“It’s something that we would like to be able to offer,” Walton said. “But we just can’t offer that at this time.”

California freed schools to spend money that is usually earmarked for specific programs, such as gifted education, on other programs as budgets dropped. Financial reformers across the state cheered the move, which gave school districts much more freedom in figuring out where to cut. But it also has consequences for specialized programs like this one.

How are cuts to gifted classes impacting you or your family? Is this a problem elsewhere in San Diego County schools? Post your reflections here or feel free to contact me at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org.

— EMILY ALPERT

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