States To Keep Sex-Equity Coordinators Full Time
Washington--State education agencies would be required to employ at least one fulltime sex-equity coordinator under proposed regulations for vocational-education programs scheduled for publication next month, according to Robert M. Worthington, assistant secretary for vocational and adult education in the U.S. Education Department (ed).
Mr. Worthington's announcement, made at a conference here this week, was intended to allay a concern of the state sex-equity coordinators that their role would become part time under the new regulations.
That fear had provoked a storm of protests about the proposed regulations earlier this year.
But the announcement failed to resolve the issue or allay the con-cern, according to conference participants, because Mr. Worthington also said that full-time sex-equity coordinators should expect to assume some responsibilities other than those related to promoting sexual equality in vocational-education programs. An ed spokesman who was asked to clarify the official's comments said the proposed regulations do not specify any duties other than thoses required by the Vocational Education Act.
Using himself as an example, Mr. Worthington said that when he served as a state director of vocational education, he had to take on administrative duties for adult education and postsecondary technical institutions. "Some administrators can do five to six things effectively," he said.
Speaking to sex-equity coordinators from more than 39 states, Mr. Worthington also confirmed that though states would be required to continue to employ at least one full-time coordinator to fulfill the intent of the law, some state personnel hired for sex-equity programs may be part time.
Referring to the regulatory process in general, Mr. Worthington said, "If the law doesn't require it, we are eliminating it. We want the regulations to clarify the laws."
And, in response to signs of displeasure from the coordinators, Mr. Worthington added, "Please consider this in terms of the overall interest and not in your self-interest."
Marie Mayor, sex-equity coodinator for the Maryland department of education, said she was pleased that the proposed regulations call for a full-time coordinator. But she said if the proposed regulations are interpreted in the states to mean "full-time equivalent," with the duties of the sex-equity coordinator spread out among a number of different people, the effect is still a part-time position.
"You need a full-time person who will be accountable to the federal government on what the states are doing," she said.
Beverly W. Postlewaite, sex-equity coordinator for Washington's state department of education, said she has resisted the attempts of state officials to add other responsibilities to her position. She said Mr. Worthington's announcement on the proposed regulations at first seemed to be "the way we hoped it would turn out."
But his qualifying remark that coordinators might have other duties discouraged her, she said. Ms. Postlewaite added: "If there isn't any federal mandate, states could do what they want ... and it's hard to say what the states will do."
Early drafts of the proposed regulations for vocational education caused a wave of protests because of a number of proposed revisions were perceived as adversely affecting women and disadvantaged and han-dicapped people. Those changes included the elimination of the "excess-cost" provision that governs how federal money "set aside" for the vocational training of handicapped and disadvantaged students may be spent, and the requirements specifying the membership of state and local advisory councils that are not contained in the law. The existing regulations specify that representation on advisory councils must reflect the percentages of women or minorities in the state's population or workforce.
Under the proposed regulations, states would be allowed to apply for adjustments in matching federal funds for handicapped and disadvantaged students; to reduce some reporting and record-keeping requirements; and to eliminate responsibilites of the sex-equity personnel that are required by current regulations but not by the vocational-education law.
Of particular concern to the women's groups was a provision that appeared to dilute the role of states' sex-equity coordinators by suggesting that their position did not have to be full time. Their concern was demonstrated in a "orchestrated letter-writing campaign" and in a meeting with Mr. Worthington.
During last week's conference, Mr. Worthington said state officials should be prepared to revise their program if they do not meet the guidelines established in the proposed regulations, which have been delayed considerably because of the controversy surrounding some provisions.