Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Obama Sends Mom's Beloved Program to the Gallows

Among the many social programs the Obama FY 2012 Budget targets for elimination is the Women's Educational Equity Act.  This program historically has been underfunded -- and some years it has received no funding at all.  But it has remained on the books and as such has expressed the federal government's commitment to promoting gender equity in education.  In his 2012 budget, the President puts this program in the termination column.  This cut stings --  the savings it earns is a paltry $2 million, so it feels more like a slap in women's faces than a tough decision in favor of deficit reduction.

The fate Obama has assigned Women's Educational Equity also stings because my mother, the late Congresswoman Patsy Takemoto Mink (D-Hawaii), was the original sponsor of WEEA in 1974 and fought for it throughout her years in Congress. Her last effort to secure funding for WEEA was in 2001, a year before her death, when she fought for WEEA reauthorization in the No Child Left Behind Act. If I recall correctly, WEEA was reauthorized in No Child Left Behind, but was zero-budgeted.  In any case, WEEA has been funded since 2001 -- though always at levels far below its programmatic promise.

What my mother loved about WEEA was that it put government in a positive role, nurturing and supporting efforts at all levels of education to improve the educational context for women and girls. In contrast, Title IX, enacted in 1972 and named after my mother after her death in 2002, is a regulatory measure which promotes gender equality by prohibiting discriminatory practices. The two legislative innovations go hand in hand.  Title IX requires educational institutions to avoid and remedy discrimination.  WEEA gives educational innovators tools to eliminate cultural and ideological barriers (such as sex stereotyping in classroom materials and curricula) to the full participation of girls and women in educational processes  while also encouraging programs that advance the incorporation of girls and women into fields that historically have excluded them -- math, science, and engineering, for example.

White House documents that accompany the 2012 Budget state that WEEA objectives will be advanced in other programs.  I hope that's true.  But in my cursory reading of the itemized Department of Education budget, the word "women" appears only once -- with reference to terminating WEEA.

While the Budget saves a whopping $2 million by killing WEEA, notice that it wastes more federal money on Abstinence Education ($50 million) and on promoting marriage and fatherhood ($150 million).

1 comment:

Carla said...

What the Tea Party in the 2010 elections did is instill a debt-cutting fervor in Congress. They believe gov't should do nothing but defend the country. No regulations, no taxes. The free market will take care of everything. Every man for himself. Progressives need to show- in force - that this is NOT the way for our country to move forward. We need to prepare for 2012, vote in huge numbers and get this country back or we're in big trouble!