Report Shows Women and Girls are Invisible Again

National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education finds vocational education law fails women and girls

The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE) released a report in Oct. 2001 that found 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 individual states on 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.

Major findings of the report:

  • Not one state was able to improve its programs under the 1998 law;
  • Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee failed to support programs; Programs in Alaska, Georgia, Hawaii, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia 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 NCWGE’s Vocational Education and Training Task Force, which is chaired by Women Work! The National Network for Women’s Employment. For more information, please contact Women Work! at (202) 467-6346.

Download a free copy, or request a printed copy ($10 per report for shipping and handling). Please mail request with check or money order payable to Women Work! to: Women Work!, 1625 K Street, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC, 20006.

Be an Advocate in Your State

To help you advocate for improvements in Perkins, Women Work! has created a press release that can be tailored to your program and state. Download and use it today! Local Press Release (pdf, 281kb)