U.S. education secretary in Atlanta: more equity in girls sports needed

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, followed by Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, is greeted by Atlanta school Superintendent Lisa Herring and students in the Atlanta Teen Leaders Academy at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation and Aquatic Center on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. Cardona and Dickens touted progress for girls in sports due to the passage of the federal Title IX law in 1972 but said more must be done. (Natrice Miller / natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

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U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, followed by Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, is greeted by Atlanta school Superintendent Lisa Herring and students in the Atlanta Teen Leaders Academy at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation and Aquatic Center on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. Cardona and Dickens touted progress for girls in sports due to the passage of the federal Title IX law in 1972 but said more must be done. (Natrice Miller / natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on a visit to Atlanta Tuesday talked with female students about a 1970s federal law known as Title IX that guaranteed their access to sports, but said more needs to be done on that front.

“As we come up on the 50th anniversary of Title IX, it’s really important to take stock in the progress we’ve made as a country but also recognize that we still have a ways to go,” said Cardona, who spoke at an aquatics center in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood near the childhood home of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The law, signed into law 50 years ago on Thursday, says in part that no one in the United States “shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in” any education program or activity receiving federal funding.

The impact has been dramatic, according to the National Archives: before Title IX, one in 27 girls played sports while today two in five do.

During his visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation and Aquatic Center, Cardona met with Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and spoke with participants of the Atlanta Teen Leaders Girls Empowerment Academy.

Dickens noted that Title IX was modeled after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and said it was therefore fitting that Cardona came to King’s neighborhood for the anniversary.

Also there were Atlanta school Superintendent Lisa Herring and Erica Wheeler, an Atlanta Dream guard who asked the girls if boys’ high school basketball drew larger crowds than girls’ games. Yes, they responded, an indication of the distance yet to go that Cardona referenced.

Cardona did not address the ongoing controversy around transgender athletes. In Georgia, as in other states, Republican lawmakers argued that it was unfair to girls to let transgender athletes compete against them. They passed a bill this year signed by Gov. Brian Kemp that authorized the Georgia High School Association to decide the matter. In May, the group’s executive committee voted unanimously to make athletes compete based on their gender assignment at birth.

Cardona, a former fourth grade teacher who took automobile maintenance classes in high school, also came to Atlanta to provide opening remarks for an event at State Farm Arena highlighting career and technical education — the SkillsUSA National Leadership & Skills Conference. SkillsUSA is a collaboration between educators and industry to develop a skilled workforce.