Women's Educational Equity Act:

A Review of Program Goals and Strategies Needed

PEMD-95-6: Published: Dec 27, 1994. Publicly Released: Dec 27, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Education's Women's Educational Equity Act (WEEA) Program, focusing on: (1) what interventions were implemented under WEEA between 1986 and 1991, by whom, for what audiences, and at what costs; (2) whether these activities promoted educational equity for women and reflected legislative requirements; and (3) how changes in program administration affected the ability of the WEEA Program to achieve its legislative purpose.

GAO found that: (1) the WEEA Program funded 205 general and challenge grants between 1986 and 1991 to promote gender equity in all educational institutions receiving federal funds; (2) the WEEA Program addressed gender equity primarily by providing direct services such as career counseling, remedial academic instruction, and personal support services to girls and women to compensate for past and current inequities; (3) elementary and secondary school students were the most frequently targeted participants, followed by parents and other adults from outside the schools; (4) colleges received 36 percent of WEEA grants, nonprofit or community groups received 32 percent of WEEA grants, and local and state education agencies received 15 percent of WEEA grants; (5) WEEA activities often continued beyond the funding period, but continuation of services was contingent upon the availability of other outside funding; (6) the Clinton Administration requested and received an increase in WEEA funding from $1.98 million to $3.97 million in fiscal year 1995; (7) there was limited information on the effectiveness of past WEEA projects in eliminating sex bias in education because WEEA did not require grantees to produce materials on service activities; and (8) it was not clear whether the Department of Education would make fundamental changes in the design and implementation of the WEEA program.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Changes in the WEEA legislation require that the Department of Education establish new regulations regarding funding to reflect revised priorities.

    Matter: Congress should weigh whatever benefits it perceives from the various funding requirements--such as the special consideration for applicants who have not received assistance under WEEA or under part C of title IX of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the requirements for a geographical distribution of awards--against any drawbacks of those provisions. In this small program, the multiplicity of funding requirements may make the grant award process too mechanistic and may reduce the likelihood that higher scoring applications would be funded.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The 1994 revisions to the Womens Educational Equity Act require that the Department award two-thirds of WEEA funds to implementation of local projects. These funds cannot be redirected to broader projects. However, the remaining portion of the program will support research and development on strategies to support gender equity.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should revisit the fundamental goals and strategies of the WEEA Program. The doubling of the WEEA appropriation makes it particularly important to steer resources away from local delivery of direct services and toward the broader elimination of inequitable policies and practices that may otherwise affect future generations of girls and women.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The new WEEA legislation requires coordination between the Office of Education Research and Improvement and the WEEA program office to enhance the research and developmental efforts supported by WEEA. As part of a general effort to improve grant administration, the Department is monitoring all grants to ensure that evaluation requirements have been met.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should take steps to ensure that the WEEA Program is supported by adequate evaluation of funded projects and sufficient administrative support.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education


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