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House, Senate Target Sexuality Education Funding in Education Measure, Appropriations Bills

House, Senate Target Sexuality Education Funding in Education Measure, Appropriations Bills

July 14, 2015 — Last week, the House passed an education bill (HR 5) with a provision restricting federal funding for sexuality education in schools, coinciding with congressional plans to cut millions of dollars from sexuality education programs, the Washington Times reports (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 7/9).

Background

The underlying bill, called the Student Success Act, aims to overhaul the No Child Left Behind Act (PL 107-110) (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/2).

The bill includes a provision that would bar schools from using federal funds for materials or programs that "normalize teen sexual activity as an expected behavior, implicitly or explicitly." According to the Times, this provision is not included in the original No Child Left Behind legislation or in the Senate's version of a reform bill (Washington Times, 7/9).

The House reform bill also would require school-based health centers in school districts that receive federal funding to certify that they do not provide information to students about abortion or perform abortions, even though school-based health centers already do not provide abortion services. In addition, the bill would prohibit the health centers from providing students with "abortion related materials, referrals or directions" (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/2).

Pregnancy Prevention Funding Cuts

Meanwhile, both Senate and House appropriations bills would cut the current $105 million allocated for sexuality education. According to the Times, 95% of the current funding goes to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program.

The Senate measure would cut overall sexuality education funding to $40 million, while the House version would cut funding to $20 million. Both measures would divide funding evenly between TPPP and abstinence programs.

Implications

The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States said the proposed sexuality education budget cuts "would decimate funding" for TPPP, perhaps even rendering the program ineffective. SIECUS and Advocates for Youth have both called for full funding for TPPP.

Meanwhile, discussing HR 5, Rep. Barbara Lee (D.-Calif.) said, "Our young people deserve medically accurate and age-appropriate sex education so they can live healthy lives and have healthy relationships," adding, "Sadly, this bill goes in the exact opposite direction by prohibiting funding for proven health and sex education curriculum that keep young people healthy."

Separately, Bill Albert, chief program officer for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, noted the sharp drop in teen pregnancy and birth rates in recent years, saying, "Why mess with success?" (Washington Times, 7/9).