Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. George Miller Toasted as Title IX Champions
Next year Congress will lose two of its most devoted advocates for educational equity, because Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) are retiring. Since they were elected to Congress in 1974 — two years after Title IX became law — the two men have been at the forefront of ensuring that Title IX remains strong while also working to advance enforcement, awareness, and application of the law. Often working together, they have vastly improved gender equity in education across the nation.
“Your commitment to women and girls has resulted in a stronger education system — one where all children are valued,” AAUW of Iowa President Maxine Lampe wrote in a letter to Harkin honoring him as an AAUW Title IX Champion.
In 1990, Harkin sponsored and passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, legislation that protects the civil rights of Americans with disabilities. As current chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Harkin chaired a hearing two years ago, around Title IX’s 40th anniversary, that featured four women who have made huge advancements thanks to Title IX.
“We all benefit from gender equality,” Harkin said about Title IX. “The highest-growth, highest-wage careers today — careers that are critical to America’s economic success and national security — are the same careers that were traditionally off-limits to women before Title IX’s passage.”
Similarly, Harkin is mindful of protecting against discrimination and assaults in the LGBT community. To combat threats to LGBT students, he proposed a rewrite of our education laws to include language similar to Title IX that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected demographics.
While Harkin was working for educational equity in the Senate, his colleague Miller worked on similar goals in the House. As chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor from 2007 to 2010, Miller led the committee to its “most productive legislative record in history,” taking on issues such as student loan debt and expanding Pell Grants.
“You have been incredibly successful at translating your priorities into laws that have benefited millions during your congressional tenure,” Sue Miller, AAUW of California board member and public policy chair, wrote in a letter to George Miller honoring him as an AAUW Title IX Champion.
Recently, George Miller called for investigations of schools and their prevention of sexual abuse (working to prevent sexual harassment and assault is a requirement of Title IX). George Miller’s actions helped prompt updated guidance from the U.S. Department of Education on the responsibilities of schools.
“Thanks to Title IX, all students can benefit from their education,” he said in remarks given at an AAUW reception this week.
But George Miller also noted that there is still work to be done.
“For all young people here, there’s no shortage of battles to participate in as far as women’s equity,” he said.
Whether they were focused on improving the classroom experience, safety of schools, or equal access to education, Harkin and George Miller deserve applause for prioritizing students’ needs. We are grateful for their service and commitment to equity for women and girls, and we thank them for the long-lasting contributions they have made in their years in Congress. They truly are Title IX Champions.