- The Washington Times - Monday, March 23, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Do school districts spend as much on girls’ athletic activities as they do on boys’?

Of course not.

Wasn’t Title IX, which President Nixon signed into law in 1972, supposed to right-size the issue?

Yes, but like most laws enacted as great equalizers, often they merely compound the problem.

D.C., for example, has had to comply with the federal law, just like the states have. Unfortunately, parents were hoodwinked, and city leaders have not been forthcoming, partly because they shone the spotlight solely on academics.

Now don’t get me wrong: Academically speaking, schooling has been so bad for so long in D.C. that leaders could not afford to ignore the problem. It’s that the spotlight left the real problem — spending — in the dark.

Now comes a brighter bulb — and uncertainty that legislation being aired this week by the D.C. Council will deliver what is needed regarding school spending and Title IX.

The Title IX Athletic Equity Act of 2015, introduced by lawmakers Kenyan McDuffie, Mary Cheh and David Grosso, has the support to pass the full council once it moves out of committee, and at first blush the bill should pass.

The bill’s summary: “As introduced, this bill imposes additional reporting and publishing requirements regarding Title IX compliance on District public schools. The bill requires District elementary, middle, and high schools to submit an annual report assuring compliance with Title IX to the Mayor. The bill also requires the Mayor to develop a five year plan to promote gender and racial equality within athletics in District Public Schools, as well as establish regulations that will formalize a grievance process.”

Typical gobbledygook that represents the long-winded bureaucratic way to say “accountability.”

Mr. McDuffie explained the gist of the issue to me on Monday, saying “part of the issue is that resources [for boys and girls] aren’t equitable.” Which typically means if you offer and fund boys basketball at X number of schools with X amount of dollars, coaches, medical staff, buses, etc., you’d better try your best to do similarly for girls.

Then Mr. McDuffie whacked the head of the proverbial nail: “We don’t know what they’re doing and what the needs and desires of our students are.”

Forget the latter part of his comment. The nail is buried in the first half of his compound sentence — “We don’t know what they’re doing .”

How could that be? How could school and city officials not know — precisely — how much money they are spending on athletic programs?

Because everybody combs through the education budget, but nobody holds the mayor and school officials accountable for the return on so-called investments.

Are we even certain that lawmakers know?

The question and its answer are critical since lawmakers, not the mayor and school officials, decide school spending and have held authority to do so since the council gave themselves the power in 2007.

Perhaps better than other council members and Mayor Muriel Bowser, Mr. McDuffie knows best what activities children need and want. He is, after all, the father of 8-year-old and 5-year-old daughters. (“They’re at the age when it seems they need five sets of parents instead of one,” I half-jokingly remarked to his laughter.)

What lawmakers must do to level the playing fields (pun intended) is think outside the box. For sure, there’s a place for the arguments that our boys and girls need more physical activity, and that black kids might need more than white kids. Yet, even if you do not buy into such arguments, merely creating separate but equal pots of money will never level the athletic field if the council and the proposed law don’t first comb the school system’s ledgers to find out what it’s spending the money on and what parents and girls want.

Mr. Grosso should understand, as he is chairman of the council’s Education Committee and the alum who attended Earlham College, whose students run an equestrian program, the only such student-run program in the United States.

So let’s get back to some basics. Find out where the money is going before pouring more into the separate but unequal pots.

You might find that girls simply aren’t interested in playing sports.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]


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