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Survey Finds Reagan Policies 'Out of Step' With Public Beliefs

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Washington--The Reagan Administration's education policies are "out of step" with the beliefs of the American public, according to a survey on "prominent issues in the 1984 elections" commissioned by the Project on Equal Education Rights of the now Legal Defense and Education Fund.

The study, conducted by Research and Forecasts Inc., a New York-based opinion-research firm, was released last week by peer and the National Organization for Women. Its findings are based on a national survey, conducted last month, of a statistically representative group of more than 1,000 men and women 18 years and older, according to Leslie Wolfe, director of peer and former director of the federal women's equity program.

The survey, which included five key questions, was commissioned, according to Ms. Wolfe, "so that we could determine what the public thinks about current education policies and assess the depth of the national commitment to equality in education."

The majority of those surveyed said they strongly support federal funding to upgrade American schools. And twice as many respondents (42 percent versus 22 percent) said they would support a Presidential candidate who placed a high priority on improving education over one who placed a high priority on increased defense spending.

"This commitment to excellence in education," Ms. Wolfe said, "is shared by an equal number of Democrats and Republicans."

Among the other findings of the survey:

A majority of the respondents indicated that they believe there is a need to maintain and expand recent gains made in educational equality for women, and 82 percent said they would support a candidate who endorses these views.

Eighty-eight percent of those polled said they believe today's schools tend to encourage girls to study whatever subjects they choose, including traditionally "male" subjects. peer officials pointed out, however, that most young women are not pursuing such courses of study, according to recent statistics.

Sixty-eight percent of the respondents said federal equal-education laws, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, should apply to all programs in a school that receives federal funds, including areas, such as athletics, that do not receive direct federal funding. The Reagan Administration has taken the position that Title IX applies only to those programs receiving direct federal assistance, and the interpretation of the statute is the subject of a suit that will be reviewed this year by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Reagan's position on Title IX goes contrary to the will of the American people," said Judy Gold-smith, president of now, who presented the survey findings with Ms. Wolfe. "President Reagan has focused on education, hoping to help bridge the gender gap by taking a strong stand on an issue of concern to women. Instead, he is alienating women and men who support women's rights still further by narrowing Title IX protections."

Ms. Wolfe said she found it "significant" that the majority of those surveyed opposed the President's efforts to limit coverage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

"We would like the President to know that his Administration's attempts to restrict Title IX coverage--and thereby withdraw from American women their only assurance of equal access to education--violates the will of both the Congress and the American people," she said. "American women and men are unwilling to lose the hard-won gains of the past decade; they will not tolerate unequal treatment of their daughters.''

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