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New Mexico State University

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NMSU grad student lobbies for gifted education funding

Niki Mott, a Las Cruces Public Schools Advanced Education Services Facilitator and New Mexico State University candidate for a master's degree in English, recently lobbied in Washington, D.C., for federal funding of gifted education in New Mexico.

Mott represented the New Mexico Association for the Gifted (NMAG) at a conference sponsored by the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) in March. While in the U.S. Capitol, Mott and other NMAG representatives also met with New Mexico legislatures about funding for gifted education.

"We took our message to Washington, D.C., to encourage our lawmakers to recognize that today's gifted students will be tomorrow's innovators and that an investment in gifted
education is an investment in America's future," Mott said.

Del Siegle, president of NAGC, said the lack of funding for gifted education at the federal level trickles down to the state and local levels, "which too often leads to misguided
decisions to cut or gut gifted education programs despite their records of success."

"I was very privileged to be able to meet with Sen. Pete Domenici, as well as staff members in the offices of Sen. Bingaman and Reps. Pearce, Udall and Wilson," Mott said. "The staff members were very receptive, and many of them had been educated at New Mexico public schools and universities."

New Mexico's funding from a three-year federal grant, the Javits Grant, has expired. Mott said little funding is available for gifted education at the federal level, and that funding is only granted when states apply for it, which is a complicated process.

"With support from a federal grant, New Mexico has designed and adopted methods for identifying gifted students who may otherwise go unnoticed because of their cultural, language or socioeconomic differences," Mott said. "Without funding for gifted education, they are at risk for becoming bored in their classes or disillusioned with education."

Teresa Rowlison, the program coordinator for NMSU's online special education courses, said the online program benefited from the Javits Grant because it aided teachers in taking 12 credit hours. Because the courses are online, educators from throughout New Mexico have been able to participate.

Rowlison said during the last four years, the online program, which includes four gifted education courses, has had enrollment of more than 400, but that number has declined since the Javits Grant expired.

Rowlison said gifted education funding is crucial because "teachers need to know how to differentiate the curriculum and ways to accelerate the instruction for gifted students."

Mott, who will graduate in May with a master's degree in English and a minor in special education, took several of the online special education courses.

For the 2008 spring semester, 1,497 undergraduate students and 599 graduate students have applied to graduate. More than 1,200 students will participate in the two commencement ceremonies held at the Pan American Center.

The first ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. for the Colleges of Agriculture and Home Economics, Business, Engineering and Extended Learning. The second ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. for the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Education, Health and Social Services.

Ed and Harold Foreman, who were born in Portales, N.M., and donated $1.5 million to the College of Engineering in 2005, will receive honorary degrees from NMSU during the commencement ceremony.

For more information about NMSU's online special education courses, contact Rowlison at (575) 646-2125.