December 27, 2007
The state Department of Health (DOH) expects its application for federal abstinence-only sex education funding will be denied due in part to a new state law.
A state law requires DOH to apply for a federal abstinence-only grant. Up until this year, the state received $800,000 annually in federal abstinence money, which was used to produce and broadcast public service announcements and develop abstinence-only curricula for schools. In many cases, the programs have been used to supplement comprehensive sex education programs, which individual school districts had the discretion to teach.
This year, however, the Legislature passed a law that made comprehensive sex education compulsory for all schools. Sex education must provide medically accurate information about preventing unintended pregnancy and STDs.
"We've been told that we can expect our proposal to be denied," said Tim Church, a DOH spokesperson. The federal government has not officially denied the state's application in writing, he added. This year's federal abstinence grant was expected to be about $200,000.
The sponsor of the new law, state Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe (D-Bothell), was unapologetic about the state possibly losing the funds. "I am not chasing the dollar," she said. "The state of Washington made its decision, we did as a Legislature, that we believe kids ought to be taught a comprehensive sex education with abstinence-only included in that program."
LeAnna Benn of the Spokane-based abstinence-only group Teen-Aid accused the state of intentionally undercutting its grant application. "This is their way of complying with legislation but letting the federal government deny the funds," she said. "How healthy is it to refuse funding for one of the components of the 'comprehensive' education plan?"