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Santa Maria Sun / School Scene

The following article was posted on July 11th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 19 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 19, Issue 19

Federal funding reinstated to Community Action Partnership sex ed programs

By Kasey Bubnash

It's been a financially rocky year for some Community Action Partnership San Luis Obispo programs, but because of a recent federal court ruling, the nonprofit will continue offering its reproduction education courses to local schools and youth organizations. 

Community Action Partnership won grant funding in 2015 through the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, which provides financial support for research projects aimed at decreasing teen pregnancy rates and the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STI), health educator Brooke Klever said in a previous interview with the Sun.

The funding, which Klever said was meant to last five years, was used to provide comprehensive, inclusive sex ed classes to about 25 schools on the Central Coast, including those within the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District.

Klever said Community Action Partnership's 13-lesson program includes information on all sexual orientations and gender identities, contraception, healthy relationships, and methods of protection against STIs. Its focus, she said, is on promoting safe sex more than abstinence.


THE TALK
Some Santa Maria Joint Union High School District health teachers partner with Community Action Partnership San Luis Obispo during the sex ed portion of class, according to Public Information Officer Kenny Klein. California public schools are mandated by state law to provide students with comprehensive sex education.
FILE PHOTO BY KAORI FUNAHASHI

But in July 2017, the Trump administration announced plans to cut nearly $200 million in federal teen pregnancy prevention grants, saying the programs being funded had proven ineffective in hampering teen pregnancy. The decision left Community Action Partnership and about 80 other organizations around the nation without funds that were supposed to last until 2020. 

"We found this out July 2017, so after a month of shock we went into the mode of, 'Is there other funding available, and if not, how can we sustain the program by charging schools?'" said Raye Fleming, director of Community Action Partnership's Health and Prevention Division. "Well, there was no way the schools could afford that." 

For months the situation looked bleak, and Fleming said several employees involved with the Health and Prevention Division's youth reproductive programs left for other jobs. 

But the seemingly sudden decision spurred a string of lawsuits, and Fleming said many of the agencies that sued the federal government won. Those programs were re-funded.

So when Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., filed a class action lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's cuts, Community Action Partnership joined in. On June 1, a U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., ruled in favor of Public Citizen, and stated the funding termination was unlawful. 

"The court's decision ensures that the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program will continue to be directed by evidence–not ideology–as Congress intended when it mandated the continuation of the program," Sean Sherman, an attorney with Public Citizen, said in a press statement released in June. 

Fleming said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officially reinstated the grants on July 1. 

"It was a huge relief," Fleming told the Sun.

Although Community Action Partnership lost five employees involved with the reproductive education programs, Fleming said the nonprofit will be able to continue researching ways to better teach kids about safe sex and reproduction.

Other organizations, many of which Fleming said shut down in anticipation of the funding repeal, will not be so lucky. 

With some new hires and outreach to local schools, Fleming said Community Action's sex ed classes should be up and running soon. 

"We feel it's critical that youth have access to the health services they need," Fleming said, "and that they say they need."

 

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash writes School Scene each week. Information can be sent to the Sun via mail, fax, or email at mail@santamariasun.com. 




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