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National NOW Times >> August 1995 >> Article

NOW Remains Vigilant in Pursuit of Title IX Enforcement

by Sharon Hollon, NOW Intern

NOW is challenging members of Congress to stand firm in the face of new attacks on Title IX. Title IX is the federal law that bans gender discrimination in federally-funded school athletic programs.

The attacks are coming in Congress, where special interest groups testify that the result of Title IX is not better opportunities for women athletes, but destruction of men's athletic programs. They are primarily targeting "proportionality," one of three tests used for measuring a school's compliance with Title IX. The test requires a school to provide equal educational and athletic opportunities and funding for women and men in proportions that match the percentage of their representation in the student body.

"For every dollar spent for women's sports between 1989 and 1993, there were two dollars spent on men's sports," said NOW Executive Vice President Kim Gandy. "Despite the fact that women make up more than 50 percent of the college population, they receive only one-third of all athletic scholarships, one-sixth of recruiting budgets, and one-fifth of overall athletic budgets."

The College Football Association (CFA) is lobbying members of Congress in an attempt to exclude football from consideration under Title IX. The CFA argues that football provides the majority of athletic revenues for colleges and that it is impossible to provide women athletes equal opportunity because there is no female equivalent to football.

"Not all football programs are revenue producers," said Gandy. "In fact, 62 percent of Division I-A teams ran a deficit in 1993. And if football programs that take an average of 60 percent of the college athletic budget are exempt from the calculation in gender equity, women's sports will be severely limited. Women and girls will be left to scramble for a share of the remaining 40 percent, at a high cost to the progress we've made since 1972."

Unfortunately, opponents of Title IX are receiving a warm response from some of the men in a position to change this law. Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., has asked House colleagues to sign a letter to the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights (OCR), which oversees Title IX investigations. In his letter, Hastert urges what he calls "common sense" revisions -- such as eliminating proportionality and exempting football. On June 9, a representative from the OCR wrote a letter to Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., agreeing to complete a review of Title IX policy and clarify its position on the tests for Title IX enforcement.

NOW is working hard not only to defend Title IX in Congress, but to score new victories for women athletes. California NOW won a landmark 1993 settlement against the 20-campus California State University System . In the settlement, the school system agreed to provide women students with equal athletic opportunities. By the 1998-99 academic year, the number of varsity sports slots that the school system offers to women athletes must be equal to the percentage of women in the general student body.

The recent onslaught of opposition to Title IX is the latest chapter in its often turbulent history. The original law, passed in 1972, required all schools receiving federal funds to comply with its gender equity regulations by a 1978 deadline. After a series of lawsuits, a 1984 Supreme Court ruling severely limited the application of Title IX, causing cases then under investigation to be thrown out.

Fortunately, after several years of grassroots organizing and public pressure, the 1988 Civil Rights Restoration Act reinstated Title IX -- by prohibiting sex discrimination anywhere in an institution receiving federal financing, rather than restricting the prohibition only to the specific program receiving the public money. However, as of 1994, the OCR has not yet withheld federal funds from a single school.

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