Wisconsin Reformers Move Toward a First: Education Savings Accounts for Gifted Kids

Kevin Mahnken:

As a new legislative session begins in Wisconsin, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is soliciting support for a policy that would be the first of its kind in the United States: education savings accounts for gifted students.

The proposal calls for accounts of up to $1,000 to be provided to families of students statewide who are identified as academically gifted — either by their school or by scoring in the top 5 percent on state standardized tests — and are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Although the state currently offers gifted and talented programming in all public schools, high-achieving students from low-income families are less likely to be recognized for their abilities. Money from the accounts could provide access to tutors, extra textbooks, and enrichment opportunities.

The bill, which was introduced in the state Senate last Friday, has a powerful backer in Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling, chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Finance and one of Wisconsin’s most prominent education reformers. She is joined in the Assembly by Rep. Jason Fields, a Milwaukee Democrat who favors school choice.