NCWGE NATIONAL COALITION FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS IN EDUCATION


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 30, 2001

CONTACT: Jill Miller, Women Work!, (202) 467-6346

Lela Shepard, National Women's Law Center, (202) 588-5180

National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education Report Finds Vocational Education Law Fails Women and Girls

WASHINGTON, D.C. The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE) today released a report which found that programs designed to help women and girls succeed in vocational education are rapidly collapsing, leaving many women and girls in jeopardy of losing out on important educational opportunities. NCWGE expressed concern that the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act of 1998 -- the federal law governing vocational education at secondary and post-secondary institutions -- provides insufficient support for women and girls at a time when welfare time-limits are fast approaching.

Invisible Again: The Impact of Changes in Federal Funding on Vocational Programs for Women and Girls rates the individual states in their efforts to protect and strengthen programs that once counted on targeted money and provisions in the Perkins law to help women and girls gain the skills they need to achieve economic self-sufficiency. Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee have failed to support these programs, and not one state was able to improve its programs under the 1998 law. Programs in Alaska, Georgia, Hawaii, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia have continued to receive support. More than half of the survey respondents reported cuts in their funding, and many programs closed their doors, eliminating even the promise of progress for local women and girls.

"This report demonstrates that without targeted funding and provisions in the law, programs for women and girls fall by the wayside," said Jill Miller, Executive Director of Women Work! and Chair of NCWGE's Vocational Education and Training Task Force. "The need for these programs is greater than ever, given the current economic climate."

"Federal policymakers need to develop policies that ensure single parents, displaced homemakers and students preparing for nontraditional employment have equal opportunities to succeed in vocational programs," added Leslie Annexstein, Senior Counsel at the National Women's Law Center and Chair of NCWGE.

Prior to its reauthorization in 1998, provisions in the Perkins law aimed at ensuring equal access and opportunity in vocational education for women and girls had achieved great success. These provisions set aside money for programs to foster gender equity in vocational education and to provide various services, such as counseling, tuition assistance and child care. Each state was required to fund a full-time employee to coordinate efforts to overcome gender bias and stereotyping in vocational education. As a result of such provisions, single parents and displaced homemakers successfully entered education and training programs and found employment. Thousands of women moved into careers traditionally dominated by men, and teen parents were able to access vocational programs. The 1998 law eliminated these important provisions.

In 2002 Congress is scheduled to reauthorize the Perkins law, as well as the 1996 welfare reform law. Invisible Again casts severe doubt on the ability of the current Perkins law to provide the support educational programs need to help female students gain the skills required to avoid a life of poverty. Invisible Again recommends steps that students, educators, advocates and policymakers can take to ensure that women and girls continue to have an opportunity to prepare for the workforce and economic independence.

The National Coalition of Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE) is a national, nonprofit organization comprised of approximately 50 organizations dedicated to improving educational opportunities for women and girls. NCWGE is currently chaired by the National Women's Law Center, a non-profit organization that has been working since 1972 to advance and protect women's legal rights at work, in school, and in virtually every aspect of their lives.

Invisible Again was coordinated by NCGWE's Vocational Education and Training Task Force, which is chaired by Women Work! The National Network for Women's Employment. Women Work! is a national, nonprofit organization that advocates for the economic security of women and families through policies, programs and partnerships. In addition to individuals throughout the country, Network members include more than 1,000 education, training and employment programs. Since 1978 Women Work! Network programs have helped more than 10 million women in transition gain the skills needed to compete in the workforce and become self- sufficient.

For more information or a copy of Invisible Again, please contact Women Work! at (202) 467- 6346. Copies of the publication can also be obtained from the NCWGE and Women Work! websites at www.ncwge.org and www.womenwork.org.