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Education Reporter

A WEEA Bit Unnecessary?
WASHINGTON, DC - A new report by the Heritage Foundation contends that the Women's Educational Equity Act (WEEA), one of 61 programs contained in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) now pending before Congress, is unjustified. The report, Wasting Education Dollars: The Women's Educational Equity Act, asserts that the rationale for WEEA "has repeatedly been refuted both by statistical evidence and by practical experience."

Enacted 27 years ago and reauthorized by Congress ever since despite a lack of evidence that it is either needed or effective, WEEA's premise is that public education shortchanges females and that this situation must be addressed by the federal government. The Heritage report notes that, while "programs created under WEEA have cost taxpayers roughly $100 million," a 1994 U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) review of the law's goals and strategies found that there were no evaluations of WEEA projects and thus "little evidence" of their "effectiveness in eliminating sex bias in education." Yet WEEA remains part of the federal education bill, H.R.1 and S.1 (still in conference committee as of this writing).

There is evidence, writes Heritage Foundation Senior Education Policy Analyst and the report's author, Krista Kafer, that "the problem WEEA programs were created to address may not even exist." (See Gender Inequity?) A 2000 U.S. Department of Education study analyzed 44 gender-equity indicators, including academic achievement and behavioral outcomes, and found: "By most of these measures, females are doing at least as well as males." A recent report called Differences in the Gender Gap, by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), also concluded: "Females have made dramatic progress in educational attainment, across all racial/ethnic groups, pulling even with (and in some cases surpassing) males . . . ."

Wasting Education Dollars warns that focusing on a non-existent problem such as gender inequity "diverts funds and attention from the real - and critical - problems in America's educational system," such as disparities in achievement among racial and economic groups and an overall decline in academic achievement. The report argues that "incorporating free-market principles into the federal education system would allow educators to target funding to areas they believe will be the most helpful in improving the academic achievement of children in their schools." In other words — promote local control — the solution advocated by supporters of traditional education for years.

Kafer argues that, instead of "scattering funds" among "duplicative, irrelevant and wasteful" programs, we should "channel our education resources where they will be most effective."

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