Sexuality education programming in the public schools varies greatly from state to state, and federal regulations exist primarily on the fiscal level. It is important to note that since 1998, and continuing until 2002, the Department of Health and Human Services Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) established a federal appropriation of $50 million per year to be made available to states to support programs that teach that physical and emotional harm are likely to result from premarital sex. Further, every $4 the federal government provides must be matched by $3 from the state, thus increasing the amount of money spent on abstinence-only programs to $88 million per year.4This funding appropriation was part of the Abstinence Education Formula Block Grant Program, created by the 1996 welfare reform legislation.
President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget continued funding a program (new in 2010) called the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI), at a level of $105 million. TPPI provides federal government money for “medically accurate and age appropriate programs that reduce teen pregnancy.” Although these programs are better than previous abstinence-only programs, TPPI programs are not fully comprehensive because they do not address the other risks of sex, such as contracting STIs and HIV/AIDS.
The first source of federal government funding for truly comprehensive sex education, the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP), was created in March 2010 by the new health care law. Unfortunately, the health care law also renewed $50 million for Title V, a source of government funding for abstinence-only sex education that had been allowed to expire in December 2009. The result was that for Fiscal Year 2010 (which ended on September 30), states were able to choose to apply for PREP funding, Title V funding, neither or both.
During the appropriations process for Fiscal Year 2012, Congress passed an omnibus appropriations package that include a $2.6 million cut to Title X Family Planning services (the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services), the budget for the Division of Adolescent and School Health’s (DASH’s) HIV/STD Prevention Education program was reduced by 25 percent (this program had been an effective tool in schools across the country for over 20 years, providing evidence-based school health curricula that includes the prevention of HIV, STIs, and unintended pregnancy), and a dedicated discretionary fund for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs was reinstated.
The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act
The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, introduced in the 113th Congress by Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), would expand upon age-appropriate comprehensive sex education programs that are medically accurate and evidence-based, and cease all federal funding for abstinence-only sex education. This bill:
- Outlines what sex education programs must look like in order to receive federal funding, and creates guidelines by which to restrict federal funding to programs that do not meet a minimum standard.
- Provides grants for comprehensive sexuality education for adolescents, for comprehensive sexuality education in institutions of higher education, and for pre-service and in-service teacher training for K-12 sex educators.
- Requires all federally funded programs to be inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and heterosexual youth and meet the needs of young people who are and are not sexually active.
- Amends the Public Health Service Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to allow education that is inclusive of lesbian, gay, and bisexual students and contraceptive distribution in schools, respectively.