Lawmakers hear bill that would require gifted student programs

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JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri students may have access to programs for gifted children if a bill passes. A hearing was held Monday on a bill in the Missouri House of Representatives that would require school districts to provide its gifted students with necessary programs.

School districts without enough gifted students would not be required to offer the programs. The exact number has not been determined.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Chrissy Sommer, R-St. Charles, said all students need to be challenged.

"Our schools need to be challenging for all children no matter what their learning is. We have problems throughout our entire country that we're not challenging students to their capacity. And I just want to make sure districts are doing that," Sommer said.

Students currently enrolled in gift-school programs testified at the hearing. They spoke about their experiences in these programs and why they think they are needed everywhere.

Sabien Kent, a junior at Jefferson City High School, said he would do the minimum amount of work to pass a class prior to joining a gifted program but now strives to learn more in class and help others.

"Just as the slower learners should be accommodated, so should the faster learners," Kent said.

Some committee members expressed reservations about the state mandating school districts to implement the programs. They were fearful of school districts losing their independence.

"I don't think that we're taking away that local control because they still have the ability to come up with those programs that they want to do for their students in that district. Every district is different," Sommer said.

Sommer said she is working with members of the Missouri Senate to move the bill forward.

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