The Commission for Educational Opportunities – appointed by President Bush to “review” Title IX – voted today to allow interest surveys be used as a tool in enforcing Title IX and to redefine proportionality to allow more discrimination. Both measures weaken the enforcement of Title IX, the 1972 law that mandates gender equity in federally funded education, including athletic programs in public high schools and colleges. Commissioner Julie Foudy, a member of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, led the fight within the panel to protect Title IX, but the Commission was stacked against supporters for the landmark law.
Women’s groups have vowed to fight the attack on Title IX, rallying yesterday outside of the Hotel Washington, where the Commission meetings are being held. In the audience at the hearings today were Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women and Martha Burk, president of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, as well as Donna Lopiano of the Women’s Sports Foundation and leaders of the National Women’s Law Center. Sharyn Tejani, legal director of the Feminist Majority, and Smeal spent the day briefing press on the impact of Title IX on women and girls.
“This is not about sports,” said Smeal. “This is about jobs.” Smeal referred to the possibility that the Bush Commission’s attack on girls and women in sports may be the opening salvo in a broader attack on Title IX and its opening of opportunities for women in law, medicine, and other traditionally male-dominated professions.
Yesterday, former Senator Birch Bayh, who was the chief Senate sponsor of Title IX in 1972, made a surprise appearance at the rally. “Feminists are the majority,” Bayh exclaimed. In addition, Washington Freedom’s 2000 Olympic goalkeeper Siri Mullinix joined the rally to talk about how Title IX gave her the athletic opportunities that led to her career as a professional soccer player.
“Thirty years after Title IX’s passage, high school girls still receive 1.1 million fewer athletic opportunities than their male peers each year – probably why seven out of 10 adults familiar with Title IX want it strengthened or left alone,” Gandy said.
“Title IX came too late for me, but I’m determined not to let George Bush bench my daughters.”
“Title IX was one of the most successful pieces of legislation of the 20th century. We are not about to lose ground in the 21st century,” Burk said. “Girls and their parents will fight for this.”
The Commission for Educational Opportunities will present its final report on Title IX to Education Secretary Roderick Paige. With a commission largely made up of opponents to Title IX, the report is expected to recommend a weakening of the law. In fact, the commission originally stated that the final report would not include a minority opinion. However, Commissioners Julie Foudy and Donna DeVarona convinced the commission Wednesday that this omission would be the equivalent of a “gag rule,” the Associated Press reported.
“There’s tremendous passion on this issue,” said Foudy, as reported by AP. “To not represent both sides of the passion is a disservice of what we’re going to give to the secretary.”