How much money is in the federal "pot" for single-sex public education?

On May 8 2002, the Department of Education held a small press conference to announce -- in accordance with the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act -- that it was beginning the process of rewriting the regulations implementing Title IX with regard to single-sex public schools and classrooms.

At that conference, a Department spokesperson said that single-sex educational programs would be eligible to compete for up to $3 million per year in federal funding. The spokesperson did not provide any source for this figure.

Greg Toppo of the Associated Press, and Fredreka Schouten of Gannett Newspapers, were wise enough to check with NAASSPE first. We informed them that section 5146 of the No Child Left Behind Act authorizes single-sex schools and classrooms to apply for up to $450 million per year in federal funding.

Hmmm. The Department of Education said the figure was $3 million, but we at NAASSPE insisted that the correct figure was $450 million (and we were faxing copies of the statute, page 370 [section 5146], to anyone with a fax machine). The Associated Press and the Gannett newspapers, under deadline pressure, reasonably decided not to state any dollar figure in their coverage of the story.

The New York Times and the Washington Post did not exercise the same caution, nor did they check with the NAASSPE office in preparing their coverage. They simply ran their story using the $3 million figure. Because of the prestige of those two news organizations, many other papers nationwide included the $3 million figure in their coverage as well.

NAASSPE immediately sent e-mails, faxes, and letters to the Times and the Post alerting them of their error. We also sent letters directly to the reporters who wrote the stories (Diana Jean Schemo at the New York Times, Michael Fletcher at The Washington Post). The New York Times has yet to respond to any of our letters, e-mails, etc. Mr. Fletcher of the Post was courteous enough to call and hear NAASSPE's explanation.

Mr. Fletcher insisted -- and others have confirmed -- that the Department of Education spokesperson was certain that the figure was $3 million. It's troubling that the Department of Education can't get the figure straight, especially when you recall that the Department is supposed to be promoting this idea.

Further investigation by NAASSPE since May 9th has revealed that the correct figure is actually $385 million per year. Our contact in Senator Hutchison's office has explained that while it's true that section 5146 of the Act authorizes $450 million per year for innovative programs (including single-sex education), only $385 million was actually appropriated.

Bottom line: The No Child Left Behind Act, enacted January 8 2002, authorizes single-sex programs in public schools to apply for up to $385 million per year in federal funding.

©2002 Leonard Sax
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