On October 20, 2011, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) released its eighth annual edition of the SIECUS State Profiles: A Portrait of Sexuality Education and Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in the States. This Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 edition provides a comprehensive look at sex education policies and programs in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories, and continues to serve as the most in-depth resource for advocates, educators, policymakers, public health professionals, parents, youth, and community stakeholders across the country who are working to advance more comprehensive approaches to sexuality education and eliminate harmful abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
The eighth edition illustrates significant progress on the part of advocates, educators, and decision makers to improve sexuality education law, policy, and implementation—away from the failed experiment of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and toward a more comprehensive, evidence-based approach. In Fiscal Year 2010, through the Appropriations Act of 2010 and federal health care legislation, the administration of President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress began to usher in a new era of sex education in the United States by eliminating two-thirds of federal funding for ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and providing funding for initiatives that support evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention and more comprehensive approaches to sex education totaling nearly $190 million.
At the national, state, and local levels, these profiles highlight the successful efforts of advocates for comprehensive sexuality education that are finally coming to fruition, as programs and policies across the country reflect and are building upon their work. In particular, while the State Profiles continue their tradition of “following the money,” for the first time this year’s profiles track not only federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs but also funding for more comprehensive approaches to sex education—detailing the federal funding and the programs being implemented through the President’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative(TPPI) and the Personal Responsibility Education Program(PREP).
“This Fiscal Year 2010 Edition reflects that in many states and communities new federal funding is allowing implementation of more comprehensive sex education programs for the first time, while in others, states and individual entities are using the funds to expand their already successful programming—reaching even more young people with the information and education they need to make responsible and healthy decisions about their sexual health,” comments SIECUS President and CEO Monica Rodriguez.
Among the trends and highlights of the FY 2010 edition, the profiles show that the majority of states have taken advantage of the new federal funding to implement evidence-based and more comprehensive programs for youth. In fact, for FY 2010, 43 states, the District of Columbia, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Puerto Rico accepted PREP funding; and while Hawaii and Nevada did not originally apply for the FY 2010 funds, they applied for both FY 2010 and FY 2011 grant funds during the 2011 grant cycle and are receiving FY 2010 funds retroactively. In addition, public and private entities in 36 states and the District of Columbia received TPPI grants. These funded programs will reach well over 800,000 youth and many of them focus on serving high-need populations that experience greater sexual health disparities and lack access to adequate health care information and services due to social, economic, and educational barriers. Finally, the FY 2010 edition reveals that 20 states and the District of Columbia did not receive any funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs—the largest number of states in 14 years.
“With this year’s edition we are seeing that states and cities around the country are continuing the trend of jettisoning the failed policy of abstinence-only-until-marriage in favor of more comprehensive approaches while others continue to push forward in their efforts to reach all young people with comprehensive sexuality education,” Rodriguez comments.
Despite the evidence of the demand from states for funding to support evidence-based and more comprehensive approaches to sexuality education, conservative policymakers in Washington have made efforts to drastically reduce the amount of funding available for these programs. On September 29, 2011, just weeks prior to the publication of the State Profiles, the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives released their FY 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill. The bill decimates the TPPI funding stream, cutting the funding by more than 80 percent of its current level to just $20 million. What’s more, in a clear show of deficit reduction hypocrisy, the bill includes $20 million in dedicated discretionary funding for ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage programs through the now-defunct Community-Based Abstinence Education grant program. The legislation also removes statutory language that requires TPPI-funded programs to be supported by rigorous research or promising models. This would completely eliminate one of the central tenets of the program—that it be evidence-based and work to build the body of evidence for the prevention of unintended teen pregnancy and associated risk factors.
“We are keenly aware that we must continue to be ever vigilant of political efforts to stymie the incredible progress we have seen taking place across the country to provide youth with the information and resources they need to make informed decisions and receive the support and services they need to lead healthy lives,” comments Rodriguez. “We hope this latest edition of the SIECUS State Profiles serves as motivation for advocates, schools, and communities to stay the course in providing programs that are effective and provide the complete information that youth need and have a right to receive. We also hope it offers information to empower organizations and coalitions to develop their own advocacy efforts, to learn from and strategize with each other, and build off best practices to continue to achieve even greater success.”