Report Shows Big Increase in Public Schools
A new Texas Freedom Network Education Fund (TFNEF) study shows a big increase over the past three years in the percentage of Texas school districts teaching about contraception along with abstinence in sex education classes.
This encouraging shift away from failed abstinence-only policies is especially important because Texas has one of the highest teen birthrates in the nation, TFNEF President Kathy Miller said today. These changes at the local level have come despite the fact that the Legislature has refused over the past four years to enact any statewide reforms for sex education.
"It’s clear that more and more local school officials realize ignorance won’t protect our kids," Miller said about the new TFNEF report, Sex Education in Texas Public Schools: Progress in the Lone Star State. "So now we’re seeing the adoption of common-sense sex education policies that deal with a real public health crisis and that polling shows most parents support."
The TFNEF report is based on an analysis of data collected by a Texas Education Agency survey of school districts this past spring. The analysis shows that 25.4 percent of the 677 school districts responding to the survey (out of the more than 1,000 districts across the state) used abstinence-plus curricula for sex education in the 2010-11 school year. Such curricula encourage teens to abstain from sex but also include medically accurate information about contraception.
A 2009 TFNEF study showed that just 3.6 percent of Texas school districts were teaching abstinence-plus sex education in the 2007-08 school year. Nearly all school districts at the time took either an abstinence-only approach or taught nothing at all about sex education.
Texas has the third-highest teen birthrate in the nation. According the Texas Department of State Health Services, a teen gets pregnant every ten minutes in the state. Moreover, teen childbearing costs Texas taxpayers about $1.2 billion annually.
A 2010 statewide poll conducted for TFNEF by the national firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner found that 80 percent of likely voters in Texas support teaching about condoms and other forms of contraception along with abstinence in high school sex education classes.
"We are encouraged that local policies are beginning to catch up with public opinion," Miller said. "But the Legislature and the State Board of Education should also help school districts provide more effective, evidence-based sex education programs."
Miller called on the Legislature to require that all sex education materials taught in public schools at least be medically accurate and backed by scientific evidence showing that they are effective in helping teens adopt behaviors that protect their health and future. The State Board of Education should also adopt new health curriculum standards that provide more robust information about contraception as well as the importance of abstaining from sex.