According to a new report from the AP, pregnant teenagers are being seriously let down by a web of uneven education support programs that have been decimated by funding cuts in states such as Wisconsin and California. Though many public schools insist that they cannot afford "costly support programs," those programs are often the difference for pregnant or parenting teenagers, many of who are compelled to go over a school's allotted absences, between academic success and failure.
Data culled together by the CDC shows that about 400,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 gave birth in 2010, a rate of about 34 per 1,000. These numbers have prompted child advocates to push for schools to better comply with a 1972 law, which, according to the National Women's Law Center, bans sex discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities. The argument for greater enforcement of the 1972 law is, according to the center's vice president of education and employment Fatima Goss Graves, pretty straightforward: bolstering the public support system for pregnant teens would ultimately save taxpayers a whole tugboat full of money, since it would most likely give more young, single mothers a better chance at financial independence. However, in a time when state coffers are as bankrupt as the GOP's morality, programs like those helping pregnant teens are often the first victims in a series of draconian budget cuts.
Lawmakers in California, for instance, cut funding in 2008 for a previously successful program that helped pregnant teens cope with the added burden of schoolwork after ruling that the program was no longer mandatory and that schools could use that extra money for whatever, probably matching windpants for the mouth-breathing track team. Before that unfortunate funding cut, the program helped more than 100,000 pregnant and parenting students complete their classwork as well as connect with social services. In 2010, it had a 73 percent graduation rate, which the AP notes was very close to California's normal graduation rate. Program advocates and participants said that the program was very effective in keeping teens off of welfare and helping them graduate, but the proof of the program's effectiveness was evident in a cross-county comparison: the graduation rate for pregnant and parenting teens in counties without such a program was about 30 percent.
Around the rest of the country, support networks for pregnant and parenting teens are uneven at best, and, in several cases, such as the one of the Delhi Charter School in Louisiana, downright antagonistic. In Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Utah, the definition of "excused absence" does not cover the special circumstances under which pregnant teens need to handle their classwork and school commute, and some school districts in those states don't even grant an excused absence if a girl misses school to give birth.
Some states, including Pennsylvania and Florida, have implemented programs aimed at helping pregnant teens achieve in, or at least finish, school, despite the prevailing notion among certain people with the power to shape public policy and distribute taxpayer money that teen moms are chronic underachievers. Which, according to advocates who work to help these young women slog their way through coursework and early motherhood, is of course bullshit and such lawmakers need to avail themselves of a clue and stop restricting funds for programs that make teen motherhood just a bit less alienating.