Sen. Hatch Moderates Stance on Sex-Equity Requirements
Washington--Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, who is noted for his advocacy of conservative causes on Capitol Hill, has surprised his critics and supporters alike by announcing that he will moderate his stance on two key pieces of legislation that deal with sex equity in education.
Early last week, Senator Hatch sent letters to women's and education organizations in his home state announcing that he would withdraw from consideration the bill he introduced in the Senate that would have placed severe restrictions on the scope of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Senator Hatch's bill, S 1361, would have restricted the application of Title IX, which prohibits schools that receive federal funds from discriminating on the basis of sex, to only those programs or activities within a school that receive federal support. The bill also would have excluded school employees from coverage under Title IX.
And in a May 6 hearing before the House Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education on his bill to consolidate existing federal adult- and vocational-education programs into block grants to states, the Senator urged the committee members to join him and his colleagues in the Senate "in searching for solutions to the problems of [sex] equity in training as well as employment."
More Aware of Improvements
In letters to constituents, the Senator said that since introducing his proposed amendments to Title IX he has "had time to become more familiar with the problem that Title IX hopes to resolve and the improvements it has made in opening up opportunities for women in education.''
"You have helped me become more acutely aware of the gains across a wide front that have been made by women in Utah" as a result of the act, the Senator said in his letters.
Senator Hatch noted, however, that Title IX is "far from perfect" as enacted, and added that he "will continue to monitor the situation carefully and [will] consider other improvements if they become necessary."
Senator Hatch sounded a similar note on questions of sex equity while defending his proposed vocational-education block-grant bill before the House education panel.
In prepared testimony, the Senator acknowledged that his bill would abolish several sex-equity programs currently authorized by amendments to the Vocational Education Act of 1963, including those to assist states in the removal of sex stereotyping from vocational-education offerings and to help displaced homemakers seek gainful employment.
Senator Hatch said his bill purposely eliminates these programs because, in his view, they have been ineffective.
"If the bottom line is getting more women into non-traditional employment--if that is where women want to be and have every right to go--it does not look like they are getting there as fast as they should," the Senator said.
"It is clear that there are problems with the existing legislation,'' Senator Hatch continued. He called on both houses of Congress to conduct joint hearings aimed at the production of legislation that would help women "break through the 'good old boy' network" that perpetuates male domination of vocational-education programs.
Representatives of several nation-al women's-rights organizations said last week that while they are gratified by Senator Hatch's apparent change of heart on the issue of sex equity in education, they are not yet prepared "to shower him with bouquets," as one activist said.
'Just the First Step'
"If he honestly believes that he's been wrong on this issue all along, withdrawal of his proposed amendments is just the first step," said Patricia Reuss, legislative director of the Women's Equity Action League. "You could say that in the past his position was 180 degrees opposite ours, and that perhaps now he has shifted 10 degrees closer to us."
Ms. Reuss characterized Senator Hatch's shift on the issue as "a politically savvy move for a politician facing a tight political campaign." Senator Hatch faces a strong challenge from Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson in his bid for re-election this year.
"I plan to hold him to his word," Ms. Reuss added, "and to see that this new-found sensitivity of his to women's issues is not just a passing fancy."
Barbara Stein, chairman of the National Coalition of Women and Girls in Education, said that her organization's members "are very pleased to see the Title IX amendments withdrawn."
"If Senator Hatch has come around to our way of thinking, we welcome that," Ms. Stein said. "But if he or anyone else comes up with a similar proposal in the future, we are ready and able to respond as strongly against them as we did last time. You can be sure that we will not let this issue rest the next time around."