By Cindy Richards
Thursday, June 29, 2000
Women's advocates staved off efforts to seriously undermine Title IX, which mandates equal access for both sexes in public education. But they signed on to a Senate compromise opening the door a crack for single-sex programs or schools.
In a deal that suspends six years of battles over single-sex education--at least temporarily--advocates for school reform and advocates for girls have agreed to support a Senate bill that would allow public school districts to experiment with federally funded single-sex education.
But federally funded single-sex public schools may never become a reality because of stringent federal requirements for equal facilities, programs and access for women and girls in public education.
The compromise language, approved unanimously by the Senate on Wednesday, is a vast improvement over earlier proposals that would have allowed schools to segregate students by sex and provide only "comparable" programs, according to women's advocates. If "comparability"--not equality--became law, girls would have been the ones to suffer, they said.
The accord was part of an amendment to the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill that now goes to a joint House and Senate conference committee.
If the Senate bill does become law, public schools would be able to use federal money to create single-sex experimental schools or programs only when they also create equal facilities or programs. It is a standard set so high by the U.S. Supreme Court, which has yet to find equality in single-gender education.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), the author of the amendment, has been arguing for years that comparable single-sex education should be the standard. In a Senate speech last fall, she said her proposal would "give more options to public schools to...provide each child the nurturing and special attention they need to succeed."
She says single-sex private and parochial schools are academically more ambitious and successful than