|Friday, June 28
Title IX recommendations expected by early 2003
WASHINGTON -- A panel of sports professionals and educators will examine ways to improve the 30-year-old law that has greatly increased opportunities for women in school sports, Education Secretary Rod Paige told a Senate committee Thursday.
The new Commission on Opportunity in Athletics is being formed in the wake of a lawsuit that argues that the law, known as Title IX, helps women's sports at the expense of programs for men.
"Some would like to settle this in the courts,'' Paige said. "But we believe the better approach is to discuss all the questions openly, in a forum where all voices and all viewpoints can be heard. The members of this commission are on the front lines, facing the difficult issues in athletics every day.''
Paige said the 15-member commission will be headed by Cynthia Cooper, former WNBA All-Star who resigned as coach of the league's Phoenix Mercury on Wednesday, and Ted Leland, director of athletics at Stanford University.
The commission will hold public hearings and gather information by speaking with parents, athletes, coaches, educators and experts. It will examine ways of strengthening enforcement and expanding opportunities to ensure fairness for all college athletes, Paige said.
The commission will submit recommendations to Paige by Jan. 31.
Paige announced the new commission before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Democrats on the committee said they were concerned that the Bush administration's position on Title IX was unclear.
"Many who have supported Title IX for 30 years wonder what changes the administration wants to make in enforcement, when the law is already being sensibly enforced,'' said Sen. Edward Kennedy, chairman of the committee.
"I hope the administration doesn't try to fix what isn't broken,'' said Kennedy, D-Mass.
Paige, asked what the new panel would recommend, said he was not sure what the results would be, but its proposals will not be adopted automatically.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said the new commission "holds great promise, but we'll have to consider it very carefully.
"We don't want to do anything that turns the clock back on women and girls,'' Clinton said.
The 1972 Title IX law requires schools that receive federal money to provide equal opportunities for men and women. Since it took effect, the number of girls playing varsity high school sports has grown sharply, as have budgets for women's athletic programs.
The Bush administration has been fighting a lawsuit brought by the National Wrestling Coaches Association, which contends many colleges and universities have achieved equality by trimming men's sports.
The administration has argued the lawsuit is flawed on technical legal grounds and should be dismissed. But Title IX supporters have criticized the government's defense because it did not include a statement of support for the statute's underlying intent: to ensure equal educational and athletic opportunities for men and women.
Mike Moyer, executive director of the wrestling coaches association, said the formation of the new panel "reflects the urgent need'' to reform Title IX policies. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said, "We shouldn't use the word 'reform' as a code word for ravaging Title IX.''
Some of the law's supporters did not welcome Paige's announcement.
"The law and its policies must not be changed and there is no reason to reopen them,'' said Marcia Greenberger, president of the National Women's Law Center. "If the administration wants to improve Title IX, it should strengthen enforcement of the law and policies already on the books."