Connecting with Elected Officials and Candidates in August

As Congress heads home for the August recess and as the November elections for federal, state, and local races heat up, now is the time to draw attention to high-ability students and their unique needs.

2014 is a major election cycle: all 435 U.S. House seats, 36 Senate seats, 36 gubernatorial offices and most state legislative races are contested. In addition, there are a host of races at the state, county and local levels.

Election season offers advocates excellent opportunities to engage candidates on our issues and to build on media coverage of campaigns and candidates to increase the visibility of gifted education.  Elected officials (and candidates for office) are interested in knowing the issues that the voters care about.  Although many candidates are not familiar with the details of every education issue, a meeting with a candidate and/or his or her staff to discuss gifted education in your school district, in your state, or the connection between maximizing potential and the nation’s future is one sure way to discuss what’s happening (or not) for gifted and talented students.  Meetings may be most productive with elected officials seeking re-election who have had a role in education decision making (e.g., members of state education committees).  Below are two other suggestions for raising concerns about the availability and quality of education for high-ability students with those who seek elected office.

NAGC encourages you to do the following:

  • Attend a candidate forum and ask a question pertinent to high-ability students. These forums offer great opportunities for voters to pose questions directly to those seeking to represent them in public office.  In many cases, there is an opportunity after the forum to follow up separately with the candidate and his/her staff.  You might want to visit the NAGC Advocacy pages of the website to review NAGC’s advocacy messages and how they are framed, making adjustments to fit your situation.  You should check your state association website to brush up on advocacy priorities in your state to align your questions for candidates running for state and local office accordingly.  Gifted education data about each state is on the Gifted by State pages of the NAGC website.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your newspaper. Keep an eye on election coverage, particularly when focused on education issues. If your newspaper writes an article on an election and focuses on education issues, use that opportunity to write and submit a brief (i.e., 150 words) letter-to-the-editor making the case for policies that support high-achieving and high-potential learners. Check out the writing letters to the editor page on the NAGC website.

Raising awareness about high-ability learners with the public and with candidates begins with you.  We urge you to make time to speak out on behalf of the children for whom we advocate.