Abstinence Education Facing Cuts in Texas

Texas will have to decide whether to save program.

Texas might have to loosen its stubborn insistence on abstinence-only sex education and face the reality of yet another conflict of priorities and values with the new president. Monday morning Jennifer Fox, Legislative Budget Board analyst, testified to the Health & Human Services Appropriation subcommittee saying not to count on a renewal of $9.8 million in federal funding previously ensured under President Bush.

Texas faces a distressing teenage pregnancy rate, currently ranking third in the nation. It also spent the most of any state on abstinence-only education in 2007.

While the federal government provided $9.8 million for the Department of State Health Services' abstinence-only education program last biennium, Legislative Budget Board analyst Jennifer Fox testified this morning that the Obama administration would likely not renew that funding.

The LBB recommended that Texas appropriate $1.1 million in funding next biennium to a Department of State Health Services-sponsored abstinence-only education program to keep the program afloat without federal funding. The reduction in backing would enable the program to reach only 5,300 people in 2010, as opposed to the roughly 115,000 people it reached in 2008.

The program "provides educational programs via contract services to students age 12-18 and their parents in order to prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)," according to its Web site. It also runs this Web site.

According to a spokesperson for the Dallas Independent School District, "The School District has some partnerships with the department but not with that program -- it wouldn't affect the school district."

Because the money goes to an outside-of-school program that likely only provides additional information at the behest of parents, the Obama administration cutting funding will likely do little to achieve its goal of limiting abstinence-only education in Texas schools, which is, as Fox affirms, a "policy decision" only legislatures can change.
In 2006, Texas' teen birth rate of 2 percent grew less than the national average growth of 3 percent, and it fell from first place to third place in the nation.

Holly LaFon is a journalist in Dallas who has written and worked for various area publications including D Magazine and Examiner.

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